A bach at the beach
Kiwi lifestyle icon is alive and kicking – and kicking back
Bach is not a uniquely New Zealand word. In the United States, for instance, bach and batch was short for bachelor. What is uniquely New Zealand is the use of bach – or in the South Island, crib – to mean a vacation house. Baches and cribs were once quite small structures, where a man bached – fended for himself without a woman to cook his meals. In the case of the cribs that clung to the rocks in exposed coastal places handy to fishing haunts, they could be extremely small – sometimes lacking full standing headroom. Baches are an iconic part of New Zealand history and culture, especially after World War Two, when they became accessible even to families of quite modest means. Given New Zealanders’ love affair with the sea, and our endless coastline, baches are synonymous with ‘coastal’. It could not be otherwise. And while the traditional bach developments of Orewa and Whangaparaoa have long-since become permanent settlements, the simplicity of the much-loved bach occasionally endures there, as an architectural influence. Further north, not as far north in the case of the Kaipara, the more traditional bach is alive and well. Usually renovated and often permanently occupied, the ‘bach at the beach’ is available in numbers that leave visitors from more populous parts of the world incredulous that such lifestyles are accessible here to other than the very rich. Indeed, aspiring to own a bach, for many young working couples in Auckland, is now considerably more realistic than owning their own home. The downside, of course, is the travelling – if escaping to the bach in the weekend or commuting from there to the city. With broadband, living and working on the coast and reserving trips to the office for principal meetings is a way to avoid the daily grind of motorway traffic. If that option is unavailable, a rational alternative is to get on the road extremely early – earlier than 5am if travelling from Snells Beach. Much later than this and the motorway traffic, by Albany, will be reduced to a crawl. If fleeing the city for the weekend at the first opportunity of a Friday afternoon, reaching the east coast north of Mahurangi West is likely to remain a test of patience. Because once the motorway to the Puhoi River opens, the delays and sense of frustration is only set to intensify, with the first tailbacks forming from Schedewys Hill. Commuters concerned to not add to global warming face a quandary. In the west. The one-year trial of a rail service to Helensville offers potential for commuting from South Head, for example, without contributing to climate change. The populous east coast of Rodney, north of Waiwera, has little public transport for commuters. This seems unlikely to change anytime soon. Transport planners are possibly loath to even admit that significant commuting occurs, from such far-flung places. The reality is that the allure of living on the coast is all but irresistible and commuting is the price many are prepared to pay. Meantime, for those fortunate families that don’t need to regularly visit the city, coastal living must surely represent life at is best. And what of sea level rise? The synthesis report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in November 2007 warns that by 2050, ongoing coastal development and population growth in some areas of Australia and New Zealand are projected to exacerbate risks from sea level rise and increases in the severity and frequency of storms and coastal flooding. The ownership of some low-lying coastal properties could become increasingly problematic. Some will consider the risk acceptable and some not. Others will simply consider there is no proven risk.