The secret activities of high fence dwellers

Silvia Spieksma

Have you noticed those high fences that are popping up all over Avondale? What happens behind these fences that requires them to be so high and non-transparent? Surely people can’t just be hanging out the laundry or having a BBQ. It has to be something that’s very secretive or private and has to be done outdoors. Otherwise people would do it inside and draw the curtains. It really made me want to peek. So I did. I made a periscope to do just that.

I went peeping over these fences and you won’t believe what I learned. People were doing ‘normal’ stuff: kids were playing, cars were being washed or people were enjoying a drink. This was very confusing, because nowadays people put quite personal stuff on social media for the world to see but yet they don’t want to be seen in their garden... I decided to dig a bit deeper.

I learned that most high fences were erected by newbies in the area. These fences are known as “Gentrification Fences.” It’s like they are erected to say “we like the housing stock here but my neighbours are not people we want to interact with.” I wonder how many of these fences were built before the owners even knew their neighbours. If you are thinking about erecting one of these fences, can you be convinced that you can have a lower fence and nobody will go and stand there and stare at what you are doing?

I promise that talking to neighbours doesn’t mean you have to be Best Friends Forever. And I know from experience that Avondaliens are not total weirdos or scary. I believe that good fences help retain friendly streetscapes, and facilitate interaction between residents. But I am also pretty sure that nobody who put up a big fence thought “lets be really anti-social and throw up the equivalent of the Berlin Wall.” People probably only thought about privacy without thinking through the impact on the community. With this article I simply hope to have raised some awareness around this fencing frenzy, and hopefully influence some people that are thinking about fencing in their property.

First printed in Whau Arts Festival newsletter, Localise Issue 002