Alternative ideas for Auckland's berms
Stop arguing about who mows the berms in Auckland and look for other solutions.
That's the message from landscape architects to councillors and residents.
Debate over the berms has provided an opportunity to think about alternative ways to construct streetscapes, New Zealand Institute of Landscape Architects member Sally Peake says.
The Auckland Council has stopped mowing berms and is asking residents to do it instead.
"My personal view is we tend to be rather rigid in thinking of streetscapes full stop," Ms Peake says.
"I would certainly like to see other approaches."
Ms Peake says bushier berms would bring several benefits.
"A good example is on Jellicoe St (in Wynyard Quarter) which has some quite luscious planting.
"It offers a stormwater solution as well as providing high visual amenity. It's an excellent alternative to grass."
Stormwater is filtered by the plants which strip it of heavy metals from the roads.
She says the initial set up costs would be significant but ongoing maintenance would be lower.
"It would be far cheaper over the long term if you have a full canopy."
Unitec landscape architecture head Renee Davies agrees other options should be considered but success would rely on group effort.
"The main issue as I see it is the willingness for the council's homeowners, renters and community to work with each other to put in place such innovative approaches."
Berms with more extravagant plantings can become a liability for councils if left untended.
"So councils often require owners to take total responsibility for the berm plantings.
"Maybe there is an option for a shared approach utilising the funding that would otherwise be spent on mowing contractors to establish the infrastructure for more interesting streetscapes."
But Auckland Transport, which is responsible for the berms, says they cover underground services including gas, power and telecommunications which is why grass is preferred and why parking on them is prohibited.
Spokeswoman Sharon Hunter says workers may need to gain access to underground services at any time.
The council standardised urban berm mowing services throughout the region in its current annual plan.
Prior to the formation of the super-city only berms in central Auckland were mowed by council contractors at an annual cost of $3m.
Providing berm mowing services region-wide would have cost ratepayers an extra $12m to $15m a year.
Generally the responsibility of mowing grass berms now rests with the owners or occupiers who are asked to take pride in their streets.
Visit aucklandtransport. govt.nz for details.
Roadside wildlife haven in city's heart
A small patch along the footpath of Richmond Rd has been buzzing with wildlife thanks to the efforts of a bunch of "berm bombing" residents.
The berm-planting movement was introduced to the Grey Lynn suburb by transition town group Grey Lynn 2030 a few years ago as a way to create continuous "bio-corridors" and encourage community interaction.
Green-fingered Grey Lynn resident Barbara Grace volunteered her berm in 2010 when the group was scouting for people to get involved.
She has been maintaining it ever since.
"I'm quite happy to do it, I think of it as mine now and I've kind of forgotten it's not."
A group got together to help prepare the soil and it was soon filled with self-seeding flora like borage and swan plants to attract bees and butterflies as well as rosemary, thyme and parsley.
People will stop by to pick seeds and herbs while children watch the butterflies, she says.
Ms Grace would like to see more people plant out their berms.
"It's not just the planting - it's people getting out from behind their gates and reclaiming the space.
"People interact with it - I like that aspect."
The group did not seek permission from the council before planting began but Ms Grace says she has not received any negative feedback. "As long as you look after it and bear in mind sight lines so people can see buses and cars there shouldn't be any problems."
Work is under way along the footpaths of a handful of Grey Lynn streets to create similar spaces, Grey Lynn 2030 committee member Suzanne Kendrick says.
Ms Kendrick is now preparing her own berm for planting.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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