A threatened icon

Is the quintessential ‘shed’ on the endangered species list? I’ve just been out, looking at a few properties, each more expensive than the last. In each and every case there was a common theme. Zero unused land. If you managed 2 pushes of an unpowered lawn mower you’d have overdone it.

No land for a trailer. No land for a caravan, or a boat. No land for shooting some hoops, or some backyard cricket. And most certainly, no land for a shed. What are you thinking? Why on earth would anyone want a shed? You should be sitting inside watching the latest weigh-in of the Biggest Loser (assume that show is stil running), or berating the kitchen skills of other shed-less couples vying to have everyone knows their kitchen rules. Where are the shed challenge shows anyway?

Where I grew up in suburban Auckland, it was pretty standard that each house was on a 1/4 acre block. (Just over 1000m2). These days, they seem to be 1/8 acre, and the entire land area is filled with ‘the house’.

So where is the shed meant to go? I blame 2 groups: the developers, who are only interested in buying up large blocks of quality farmland, and trying to maximise the number of properties they can produce, and the local government for allowing it to happen at all.

RIP sheds- we will see you represented in the museum of modern history, where will celebrate a time not yet ruined by modern greed.

9 Responses

  1. I have a shed on a suburban block. The shed is 12 metres long by 7.6 metres deep, and suits my needs very well. I have two good friends with similar sheds and interests. However, I have two other good friends who have absolutely no interest in any activity that could be carried out in a shed, nor are they interested in gardening. They are the ideal candidates for a fine house on the small-sized block you have described, and indeed they have bought exactly that. As far as they are concerned, their living environment suits them, whereas I couldn’t stand it. I suspect there may be more folks with my friends preferences than there are with mine, which might be a better explanation of why blocks are smaller: Councils and developers might be responding to the majority preference rather than to the one I hold.

  2. I am thankful to have a 3000 sq mtr block with 12 by 6 shed, 6 by 6 annex and a small 3 by 3…and room to move…as you well know Stu.

  3. As most modern Victorian suburban block and even regional town blocks are about an average of 500 m2 these days means you have trouble putting a shed on one. But if your interests are non shed-orientated, but something else, you are likewise limited with what you can put into a modern “back yard”. Tramp, swing, let alone space to play and bat and ball game.

    We are lucky in this country, and to put it in perspective… it is truly great to have a any roof over your head and a nice one is even better. And although some people don’t want or need a large back yard, I think everybody else’s wants and needs are not being considered by developers and especially state governments.

    Instead, it’s in governments economic self-interest to persuade the public (through limited options and attempts to convince the general public that “times are a changing… and just get used to it”) to accept this new limited way of living. At the same time not providing improved infrastructure or public facilities close to these homes.

    I’d suggest more people move to the country, but as mentioned above, country blocks are just as small and densely packed these days.

    So yes Stu, sheds are an threatened icon… so are back-yard sports and recreation in general.

  4. During the drought, people in Brisbane were encouraged to have a rainwater tank, which were heavily subsidised by government.

    I didn’t get one for a number of reasons. One of which was that it seems dumb to me to fill up expensive metropolitan real estate with a big tank to give, at the very best, a few days of reserve of water.

    With no decent sized backyards, we are turning into a nation of spectators. Better to keep a bit of land free on the block for the kids to run around in.

    I am with you, Stu. We need decent house blocks lest we turn our suburbs into ghettos.

  5. …and if everyone still lived on a 1000sqm block instead of 500, then they’d all be taking up twice as much space and the urban sprawl of our major cities would be even more ridiculous than it is. Someone has to look at a picture bigger than “everyone should have enough room for a 12×7 shed.”

    So yes, the quintessential shed is an endangered species and rightly so – because it’s completely unsustainable. If your chosen lifestyle demands a workshop area, you make the necessary sacrifice and live somewhere you can still get the necessary land (generally on the fringes of the city) or you adapt. I see a lot of people who have to shift their cars out of the ubiquitous double-garage and rearrange the jigsaw puzzle of machines in order to do anything, and that’s what works for them.

    • Then perhaps the ‘bigger picture’ is not unsustainable block sizes, but unsustainable population growth.

      There is nothing driving smaller block sizes than greed. It is not a white paper saying this is the only way to have a sustainable city, it is simply developers trying to maximise personal profits. I guarantee they have no vision for a sustainable city.

      I’d rather live somewhere that has enough land for kids to have a bit of backyard, that doesn’t have houses built to entirely fill the residential block, house block to house block, where one house has a common wall with the next. I’d rather live somewhere where you can still afford a bit of a shed, have a deck, enjoy a barbie.

      That lifestyle is why I live where I do, and I resent money making developers wrecking a lifestyle that is quintessentially Australian so they can make an extra buck.

      • “Then perhaps the ‘bigger picture’ is not unsustainable block sizes, but unsustainable population growth.”

        Or both.

        “There is nothing driving smaller block sizes than greed. It is not a white paper saying this is the only way to have a sustainable city”

        Really? The Melbourne 2030 plan says pretty much exactly that.

        Click to access m2030_insummary.pdf

        First two strategic directions – a more compact city, and limiting sprawl. Nowhere does it say “hey, we should just stop adding more people”. More people in the same space = less space per person.

        I fundamentally agree with what you’re saying, I just think you’re taking aim at the shallowest targets. Developers are obviously out for a buck, and more blocks on less land = more money, but everyone has to live somewhere. If everyone really wanted the same lifestyle we do, why do they all buy houses that fill the block?

        • Still, it doesn’t say this is the only way to have sustainability, it is just a method that that flyer promotes. That isn’t a white paper, although one undoubtly does exist.

          Having a compact city, and limiting sprawl in themselves are methods of obtaining a sustainable city, but they are not the only ones. There are other (financial) drivers for those goals- a compact city requires less costly infrastructure, less roads to maintain, less power, water and sewage lines to run etc. Compaction = a decrease in the standard of living.

          Nowhere does it say “hey, we should just stop adding more people”

          Perhaps it should. If population became sustainable (as in neutral growth), then the city would not sprawl any further than it had, and it wouldn’t need to try to compact itself any further than it has. There would be no need for a decrease in the overall standard of living.

          For a government, people = money. More people, more money.

          That governments are hell-bent on revenue raising is well recognised already. Just look at taxes, speed cameras, rates to see how focussed on money governments are. They won’t let a little thing like the standard of living get in the way of a buck.

          Sure, developers are a soft target. They are chasing easy money. It is the councils that allow the developer plans through, knowing the revenue such places will generate- more houses, more rates, more money. More houses, more people, more money.

          Do we really trust them to make utopian decisions that affect standards of living when there is money to be made?

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