OPINION | Bye hills, hello sprawl

Menangle Park: The Taber kids – Alanna, Ben, Tom and Luke – with the land about to vanish, a plan showing their home surrounded by tiny new blocks, and an old glass negative of their ancestors, Thomas and Frances Sarah Taber.
Menangle Park: The Taber kids – Alanna, Ben, Tom and Luke – with the land about to vanish, a plan showing their home surrounded by tiny new blocks, and an old glass negative of their ancestors, Thomas and Frances Sarah Taber.

I’VE just said a sad goodbye to (yet another) corner of our local landscape about to vanish forever under rooftops.

Last week I was welcomed to Mount Pleasant, the home of John and Nicole Taber, and their four kids who are the eighth generation of Tabers at Menangle Park.

They live on the rolling hills in between Menangle Park village and the Hume Highway. The one-hectare block their house stands on – all that remains of a once-large dairy farm – is about to be completely surrounded by a housing estate.

Not that it was the Tabers who sold their old family farm to Dahua Group, the Chinese development company planning the estate.

Their old family farm was actually resumed by the government many decades ago – from John’s grandparents – when the freeway went through, leaving them with the single hectare.   

“A bit like Darryl Kerrigan in The Castle”, John told me.

(I immediately thought of the Michael Caton line from that famous Aussie film: “Compulsorily acquired? You know what this means, don't you…they’re acquiring it compulsorily!”)

Well, you can't change history...and the Tabers, still at Mount Pleasant after two centuries, are today philosophical, not angry.

They want to co-operate with the Dahua Group as it builds houses and roads up to their fenceline, and John and Nicole say they are hoping for “friendly” next-door neighbours (they’ll end up with about 30 of them).

And, because of the lack of adjacent parkland planned in the new estate, the Tabers are even considering giving a small portion of their one hectare block as a leafy enclave, dedicated to their ancestors, which might be used by friendly neighbours.

One of Campbelltown's last rural pockets is about to be replaced by Colorbond fences and rooftops – like Blair Athol, only squishier.

But that’s the sort of people they are.

I can't help feeling a bit sorry for the Tabers as the rural views (that their house was specifically built on a hill to embrace) are turned into Colorbond fences and McMansions – like Blair Athol, only squishier.

The Tabers are, again, philosophical.

“We have known for years the development was going to happen,” John said.

“Fortunately for us, it didn't happen earlier and we have been able to raise our children as country children on the doorstep of the city.”

But the Tabers do want, on the public record, a recognition of the history that is about to go.

Their ancestors arrived as convicts in 1797 and Thomas Taber was awarded his original land grant for his service as an early schoolmaster in the colony.

The family went on to dominate local rural life in many ways, one of the family erecting historic Menangle House (The Horse & Jockey Inn). John’s grandmother backed the creation of Broughton Anglican College.

Bulldozers should move in later this year.

That will be sad, but I will acknowledge this truth…

Back as far as 1973 this site was marked on maps as a future residential site – unlike Gilead, on the other side of Sugarloaf next to Appin Road – the other last bit of Campbelltown’s rural landscape approved for housing – which was supposed to be “regional open space”.

Ha. The joke’s on us.

Meanwhile, I hope the Menangle Park estate ends up being the “benchmark” in “liveability and lifestyle perspectives” that the Dahua Group promises.

Not only for the Tabers’ sake, but Macarthur’s sake.

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