Perth Mania For Privacy

People in Perth have a mania for privacy. I suspect that the manufacturers of fencing brainwashed them. It results in very expensive storm damage claims.


When I visited my sister in Scotland a couple of years ago, a fox ran up and down the road at the back of the houses every night, leaping over the dividing fences. I could step over the fences myself even though I am in my seventies.

Storm-damaged fencingWhen I came to Perth 46 years ago, I had a waist-high wooden picket fence separating me from my neighbor. We often chatted over the fence, sharing tips for our gardens, and helping each other out with car repairs, etc.

Now the watchword is “privacy.” On the left is a photo of my Hardifence that was blown over in a recent storm. The panels near me are held up by the neighbor’s trees, and the banana tree is wilting because of the damage.

Hardifence was invented to replace asbestos fencing. The media revealed that asbestos fibers cause a killer disease. It seemed like a good idea at the time – replacing asbestos with cellulose fibers. Then it was discovered that Hardifence panels break at ground level after seven to ten years. We have been lucky because this fence lasted for 17 years before blowing down.

The panels are one meter wide. Each panel overlaps the one next to it.

Oops! If you have ever set up a trail of dominoes and knocked it over you can guess what comes next.

One panel breaks. The next panel is holding up the weight of two and has twice the “sail” effect when the wind blows. When the second-panel breaks, the third has three times the weight, and three times the sail effect. So the whole fence goes down like dominoes.

city of Perth, W. AustraliaSome of my fence between the two houses has not blown down because the houses protect it from the wind. On the right is a photo taken from my house. The lemon tree in the foreground fruits all the year. I took this photo at the start of spring.

There is a better and cheaper fencing system, and I’m trying to persuade my insurance company to let us switch to “Colorbond” fencing.

Broken Hardifence and unaffected Colorbond fencingOn the Left you can see the fallen Hardifence next to another neighbor. You can also see the green Colorbond fencing with their other neighbor – it was totally unaffected by the storm.

Colorbond fencing boasts slotted steel posts concreted into the ground. You then slide the steel panels down into the slots and rivet the slotted cap in place. There is no domino effect because posts concreted into the ground support the fence. If a cyclone-force wind was strong enough, it might be able to blow a panel out of the slots, but the posts would remain, so repairs would consist of sliding another panel into the slots.

The panels are still well over head-height for privacy.

Fence next to roadThe law says that we share the cost of fencing 50-50 with our neighbors. It’s just unfortunate that the government won’t pay its share if your fence is at the roadside like in the photo on the right.

Now, if you have a nasty mind like me, you are probably imagining why people want privacy. I tentatively suggested a growing hedge. My neighbor was outraged by the thought of the loss of privacy.

You probably think of Australia being a convict colony. The convict colonies were founded on the East Coast, thousands of miles away – not in Perth. Over East the convicts might have wanted privacy for their felonious activities, but not in Perth.

So what do Perth citizens do in the back gardens?

  • Gardening
  • Barbecue food and eat it
  • Children play
  • Sunbathe
  • Hang out the washing

Unless they plan to wear less than they would on the beach, I see no reason to hide these activities.

Brushwood fenceI still like the idea of open-work waist-high wooden fencing myself. The space between pickets means that the wind can blow through, instead of blowing the fence over. It doesn’t work if you have a badly trained dog that jumps over the fence. The solution is to train your dog not to jump over the fence.

On the left is a brushwood fence. I like how it looks. But what happens if vandals set fire to it? Perhaps it is soaked in fire retardant and white-ant poison.

Termites (white ants) are a major problem. Perhaps that is the real reason why picket fencing became less popular. Perhaps it had nothing to do with privacy.

I haven’t made any posts since my fence blew down. I’ve spent most of my time getting quotes for my insurance company and clearing the ground on my side of the fence for the workmen.

Perth businesses must be among the worst in the world for dealing with potential customers. When you phone a company, they will promise to phone you back with the information that you want. Don’t hold your breath waiting for it to happen. I contacted six companies for quotes. Five of them ignored me. The sixth is a company that gets quotes for you – http://hipages.com.au That company promptly arranged for two companies to contact me, and the insurance company only wants two quotes.

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