Article: Speak Easy

How Valuable Is Your View? with Michael BoturHow Valuable Is Your View? with Michael Botur

Last week a Wellington man was ordered by the High Court to pay $72,000 in costs for blocking his neighbour’s view of the harbour. I’ll explain why shortly.

Last weekend I had a coffee in a friend’s fairly modest rental on a hill in Raumanga. I noticed the large pane windows in the kitchen at the south end of the house faced out towards the wasteland between Bunnings Warehouse and Manaia View School, but gosh darn: it was a huge, uncluttered view looking down on grass and trees. To me, that view of greenery – even if it was disused land – added tonnes of value to the place. $72,000 worth? Quite possibly. 

I’ve got a modest house with an incredible view, too. The office/study where I write at home looks dead-on at the summit of Parihaka mountain. Facing south means all day long I can see sunlight illuminating the forest so clearly I can distinguish each tree. So, while my house has a few drawbacks (noisy street; Jake the Muss across the road, judging by the shouting) its view is a real blessing and makes me feel spiritually satisfied.

This raises a few questions: Does a view have an impact on property prices, do humans suffer when we are cut off from views of nature, and in this age of everything being viewable digitally, what’s the difference between a synthetic view and a real view?, a major aggregator of Auckland property data, found in a study a year ago that a sea view will increase a property’s value by nearly 50 per cent. Other views command a 19 per cent ‘premium.’ So that’s the value of having a view PRESENT. Having a view ABSENT is measurable, too, when a view is taken away.

The aforementioned $72,000 bill for blocking a view was a consequence of a battle which went from Wellington City Council to the Environment Court to the High Court.

It began in 2015, when a couple in Roseneath, Wellington, lost their view of the harbour due to a large fence blocking it. The fence was part of a playground fort eleven metres long and four metres in height. It took an Environment Court intervention to get that fence taken down. When the property owner who had built the fence/fort appealed against the Environment Court’s decision, he again lost – and now faces that $72,000 legal bill. The resident whose view was blocked, Peter Aitchison, told the Dominion Post, “It’s like your most valuable possession has been stolen and been returned back to you.”

It’s obvious that a vista is something deeply prized by many people, and something worth fighting for. 

In January Bayleys opined on exactly which aspects of a view are most valuable, comparing ‘blue views’ of water to ‘Green views’ and concluding – based on NZ Health Survey 2011-12 findings about the impact of views on psychology– that increased visibility of blue space decreases stress significantly. Only one percent of respondents in that survey said views were of no importance at all.

So, if you have a home with bushes, trees, paint or casement windows blocking an amazing view, look at whether you can maximise the amount of clear glass without letting too much heat go out the window. Just opening up the view could be worth a huge amount both financially and in terms of mental health. 

Michael Botur has published journalism in NZ Herald, Herald on Sunday, Sunday Star-Times and Mana and he writes a lot of fiction. He moved to Whangarei in 2015 and was ecstatic to be able to afford a house here.

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