Isthmus

Thinking

How time flies.

Reflecting on Hobsonville Land Company’s
10th Birthday with Haylea Muir.

On a Thursday night in August 2016, we attended Hobsonville Land Company’s 10th birthday party. It was a fantastic evening with homage paid to the long serving, remaining original employees of HLC, along with the development partners, the rule makers, the rule breakers, the visionaries, the designers, the advocates, the story tellers and the writers, the constructors and the sellers: the whole team that has made, and is making Hobsonville Point happen.

There were a few speeches, all of which reflected on what Hobsonville Point as a project has meant. To Auckland, to New Zealand. To the World? To the people that live there. To the people that have worked on it.

In summary: this project has meant a lot of amazing things to a lot of people, many of which are obvious, some of which are lesser known. The discussions tonight reminded me of a few things, so I thought I might share:

I started my full time position at Isthmus toward the end of 2007, just in time to join Paul Brown’s team and help finish off the very first masterplan document. I don’t remember working on Hobsonville as an intern but I remember helping build that document. Looking for precedent images, trying to understand what ‘mixed use’ meant, tracing diagrams, laying out the pages and writing captions for all sorts of things that were going to be components of a new community.

Left Haylea Muir and John Reynolds caught in the rain on a site visit.

Not long after that I worked with Grant and David on the first stages of the Buckley precinct. Fresh out of Uni and slightly obsessed with urban ecology (I’m not sure what happened to that over the years, I should get back into it), left to my own devices for a few days while Grant was very busy, I designed an elaborate street tree and planting strategy that focussed on food sources for kereru, convinced that Hobsonville was going to become an ecological stepping stone between the Waitakere ranges and the Greenhithe bush. Amazingly, we submitted that exact plan for consent (I think Grant was too busy to argue).

At the time, Hobsonville Point was completely devoid of native bird life. We know because we counted the birds.

I’ll always remember the day David told me to ‘forget everything you learned at Unitec, you’re an urban designer now’. Over the years since then I have been part of an amazing team of talented and knowledgeable people and worked on everything from the design of a drain to regulatory documents for entire precincts and almost anything in between. I have designed, I have managed designers, I have talked and drawn and written and waved my arms in the office and on site. My name has even been put on several awards.

But what does Hobsonville Point
mean to me personally?

— Immense pressure.
— Immense pride.
— A sharp and steep learning curve that I will be eternally grateful for.
— The discovery of, and periodic reminders of, why I love my job so much.
— The discovery of, and periodic reminders of, why I sometimes wonder how much easier my life would have been and how much more sleep I would get had I not become a landscape architect…
— Some really great relationships that I’ve been lucky enough to form with the team both inside and outside of Isthmus.
— Immense pride (I know, I said that already… but it’s really true, we are changing the way people live guys! it’s huge!).
— Immense pressure (it’s huuuuuge!!!!!).

Another theme that came through last night was that it’s very easy to stand here now and look at how awesome everything is and think it can happen easily again and again. But it doesn’t all happen by magic and it’s not all easy or simple. It’s been extremely complex, there have been arguments and struggles and losses alongside the gains for all involved.

It’s no secret to the insiders that it’s been a hard slog, but it’s also been such a rewarding one. Where there was once an expanse of land that seemed on my first site visit like 85% airbase, 10% weedy neglected mess and 5% pony club (that I’m pretty sure only had one real pony) there is now a developing community. Yep, not just a subdivision, but a vibrant place where people enjoy their homes, their neighbourhoods and their neighbours! Surely this means success!
I have lost sleep. I have moaned and groaned and cried and sworn. I have told off contractors and complained to planners. But one memorable day, a couple of years ago while grumbling to myself after dropping my drawings in a puddle, trying to take a photo of a piece of footpath that was poured wrong, a kereru flew over my head.