When Beverley Hamilton married her husband Sean 24 years ago, she fell in love with her new home too.
Sean Hamilton lived on his parents' 53ha bush-clad farm near Mangatawhiri on the southern edges of the Bombay hills.
The couple joined the extended family there and began raising their own children. Hamilton thought they'd never leave.
"At an emotional level, I was very tied to the farm. It was the place I brought my children home to. It was the place where they'd grown up. It was the place where Sean had grown up, were we'd courted. It was an absolutely beautiful place and I imagined I would live the rest of my life there."
Six years ago her dream was shattered. Transpower, the state-owned company which runs the national electricity grid, announced its plans to build a bigger transmission line to Auckland.
The pylons would be up to 70m high, almost twice as big as the existing 40m towers on the same route. Two of the biggest would sit on the hill just above the family's house.
Reluctantly the family sold - but the stress took its toll. Her mother-in-law, who owned the farm, had a heart attack three years ago and now relies on a pacemaker.
Last week Hamilton went back to the farm with her daughter for a look at the bigger towers and almost wished she hadn't.
"I was gobsmacked when I saw the pylons. The thought of our little home being in the shadow of that enormous structure now - I could never have tolerated it."
Eight pylons have gone up in the area so far, as construction begins after years of angry debate. By 2012, a new line capable of carrying 400,000 volts of power will stretch 190km from Whakamaru, near Taupo, into the heart of Auckland.
For many Aucklanders, scarred by the memories of major blackouts in 1998 and 2006, the promise of a modern, reliable electricity network cannot come soon enough.
Those in its path agree but say Transpower has refused to consider modern alternatives to its traditional methods.
Former Clevedon resident John Makin says the company has rejected a range of options, from new cabling technology and alternative power sources to greater household energy efficiency, in its quest to build bigger pylons.
"These things are going to be stuck there for 100 years and well within that time there's going to be technology that makes them completely obsolete."
Makin, a former national manager at agricultural chemicals firm Ciba Geigy, lived for about 19 years on an 8ha block at Clevedon with his wife Marilyn.
They were thinking of growing flowers for export or grazing horses to support themselves in retirement. The new line ruined their plans by placing a pylon about 100 metres from the back door of their old kauri villa.
After long negotiations they sold to Transpower for $1.7 million. Makin believes the figure was well below the property's likely market value without the new line. Unable to find a similar lifestyle property anywhere in the Auckland region, the couple now live in Devonport.
Moving was even more of a financial challenge for the Hamiltons. The family couldn't afford to buy in Mangatawhiri, where Beverley teaches at the local primary school, so they took on a mortgage and moved out to a 1.4ha section in nearby Mangatangi.
Hamilton says it's been a bruising six years but the family remains resilient. "We're going to get on with our lives and this certainly hasn't killed us. It's just part of life that you don't anticipate."
Back in February 2005, landowners were not resigned to the new line - they were angry.
Protesters burned an effigy of Transpower's Australian chief executive Ralph Craven hanging from a pylon in the streets of Tirau and furious crowds drowned out the company's representatives at town hall meetings with chants of "No pylons".
For a while it looked like an evenly matched fight. On one side, hundreds of well-resourced property owners organised into groups with names like New Era Energy and Halt (Homeowners Against Line Trespassers).
On the other side, a state-owned enterprise with deep pockets, a small army of technical experts and a disturbing history of power failures to support its case.
The most notorious of these was the five-week blackout of central Auckland in 1998 when underground cables to the city failed.
The fiasco stemmed from a local problem - the cables belonged to Mercury Energy, not Transpower - but it highlighted the ramshackle state of the whole country's transmission system, which had not been substantially upgraded for decades.
The problem for electricity planners was that any solution was likely to be hugely expensive and disruptive to landowners.
In 2004 Transpower took the plunge, spurred on by changes to the Resource Management Act which gave priority to projects in the national interest.
It unveiled its plan for a $500 million new line with pylons 50m to 70m high and 20m wide, carrying 400,000 volts (400kV) of electricity to Auckland and Northland - almost double the capacity of the existing 220kV lines.
The Think Big-style project would directly affect 344 landowners along the route, which ran close to a number of rural communities including Tokoroa, Putaruru, Tirau, Morrinsville, Hunua and Clevedon.
In response, residents took to the streets. Some even talked darkly of armed resistance. When the Tirau protesters began burning effigies of both Craven and Prime Minister Helen Clark on television news at the start of an election year, the Government stepped in.
Energy Minister Trevor Mallard asked Electricity Commissioner Roy Hemmingway, the man overseeing the whole system, to thoroughly investigate alternatives to Transpower's plan and consult widely with those affected. The extra work involved pushed his reporting date out from September - just before the election - to the following year.
Transpower was not happy about the delay but landowners were delighted. For the first time, they felt they were getting a fair hearing as Hemmingway, an American who had moved to New Zealand, started discussing alternatives to Transpower's plan at public meetings.
In April 2006 Hemmingway delivered his report, which appeared to stop the pylon proposal in its tracks. He found Transpower had not proved the benefits would outweigh the costs, especially if new power stations were built near Auckland.
To Transpower's outrage, he disputed their cost estimates and suggested a smaller $140 million investment would keep the grid ticking over until at least 2017.
Transpower quickly announced it would change its plans but behind the scenes the political mood was already hardening. Finance Minister Michael Cullen and new Energy Minister David Parker were worried that the stand-off between Hemmingway and Craven - later described by Cullen as "male rutting" - could threaten the whole project.
In late May Cullen delivered an ultimatum to Hemmingway to move faster or he would be forced to intervene. A steering group was set up to smooth relations between both sides.
Then on June 12, Auckland suffered another massive power cut. A shackle holding up lines at the Otahuhu failed, dropping a line across a switching yard and blacking out almost half the city for about five hours.
Once again, the failure was not directly connected with the proposed pylon route, but it seems to have concentrated minds in the Beehive. Parker wrote to Hemmingway two days later and met the full commission the following week. In a later court affidavit Hemmingway described the meeting as a low point and claimed Parker told the commissioners "how we were to do our jobs".
Parker denied this but he and Cullen were on common ground pushing the commission not to rely on new power stations at the expense of upgrading the grid.
Hemingway replied with a blunt letter to Parker which accused Transpower of supporting "conventional, large, expensive technology without sufficient justification for the choice". He warned that if the project went ahead, the commission could be successfully sued by landowners, especially as the Government was ordering it to move so fast.
Hemmingway lost his job in August when the Government refused to re-appoint him. It was a clear signal for both sides that the new line would be built - it was just a question of sorting out the details.
Two months later Transpower presented a revised $824 million plan for a 220kV line running on the large pylons, which could be upgraded to 400kV by 2030 if demand increased as predicted. It also proposed running the new line to an upgraded Pakuranga substation, which would reduce the city's dependence on Otahuhu, and bundling more lines together to gain greater capacity for less cost.
With Hemmingway gone and the Government firmly behind the project, the new commission's approval in January 2007 was not surprising. But there was still a dissenting voice.
One commissioner, Graham Pinnell, said Transpower had relied on out-of-date figures which over-estimated Auckland's future energy consumption.
He also questioned the company's assumption of future legal approval for a 400kV line and asked whether it would be safer to build a second line into Auckland instead.
New Energy Era, one of the groups opposing the pylons, took Pinnell's objections and Hemmingway's claims of Government bias to the High Court and lost heavily.
In May last year, Justice John Wild threw out their case, agreeing with Transpower and the commission that it was not the court's job to second-guess the merits of the commission's decision. He awarded $115,000 costs against the group, which went into liquidation.
A few weeks later a board of inquiry convened by the Government approved Transpower's plan under the Resource Management Act, saying its "considerable" adverse effects did not outweigh the country's need for a secure power supply. The battle to stop the pylons was effectively over.
CHRIS Woods still gets angry when she talks about Transpower. Sitting at the kitchen table in the 101-year-old Hunua villa she shares with her partner, Kim Rogers, she pauses in mid-outburst to apologise to their 4-year-old daughter Izzie for her language about the project and the way it was approved.
"I've probably sworn more in front of her in the last 10 minutes than I have in the last two years. It's so incompetent and so unprofessional but it gets through."
Woods teaches at Auckland University's business school. She and Rogers moved to the outskirts of Hunua 13 years ago, knowing there were four transmission lines running through the community, including one small 110kV pylon in their view of the ranges from the back door.
Soon, however, they will look out at three pylons - all further away but much bigger. One will replace the house next door, which will be demolished.
Transpower has promised to plant trees to soften the visual blow but the couple have decided the only solution is to turn their back on the new line and extend the house north instead.
It annoys Woods that Transpower assumes communities with existing lines are the best place to build.
"It's like they're saying: 'They've put up with four already, we can just throw another one in'."
She ticks off a list of alternative solutions, from wind power to underground tunnels, that she believes were never seriously considered. Hemmingway was their best chance, they agree, but as Rogers puts it "when it came to an answer they didn't like, they got rid of the top guy.
"Sometimes I walk down the road and think, oh, it won't be too bad," she says. "And sometimes I think it's going to be awful."
When Beverley Hamilton married her husband Sean 24 years ago, she fell in love with her new home too.