Any better solutions?

JOE DAWSON
Last updated 05:00 09/10/2013
Sally Peake
LATERAL THNKING: Landscape architect Sally Peake says other approaches to berm plantings should be considered

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Stop arguing about who mows the berms in Auckland city, 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 decided to stop mowing berms and is asking residents to do it instead.

"My personal view is we tend to be rather rigid in thinking of streetscapes fullstop," Ms Peake says.

"I would certainly like to see other approaches."

Ms Peake says establishing bushy areas in the spaces between roads and homes would bring several benefits.

"A good example is on Jellicoe St (in Wynyard Quarter) which has some quite luscious planting that will grow into quite a bushy environment.

"It offers a stormwater solution as well as providing high visual amenity," she says.

"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 outlay would be significant but ongoing maintenance costs would be lower.

Relying on residents to mow the berm is not particularly successful and then they get penalised if they plant anything else, she says.

"It would be far cheaper over the long term if you had a full canopy."

The difficulty would be convincing planners it is a good idea.

"I do think engineers have a quite constrained view in terms of the life cycle of maintenance.

"You see it with concrete as well - they see that as the most useful material but if there is any disturbance it is very expensive to repair," she says.

Unitec landscape architecture head of school Renee Davies agrees other options should be considered but success would rely on partnerships being formed.

"The main issue as I see it is the willingness for the council's home-owners, renters and community to work with each other to put in place such innovative approaches.

"In the past some initiatives with berm plantings have occurred and then been left untended and become a liability for the council. 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."

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Auckland Transport spokeswoman Sharon Hunter says berms and verges cover underground services including gas, power and telecommunications, which is why grass is preferred and why parking on berms is prohibited.

Utilities workers may need to gain access to underground services at any time.

"It's a practical consideration," she says. "Shared spaces projects are very carefully done in respect of the utility infrastructure."

Berms were maintained by Auckland Transport until July.

The council standardised urban berm mowing throughout the region in its 2013/2014 Annual Plan. It decided to cease berm mowing in the old Auckland City Council area - the only place in the region to have its berms mown.

Berm mowing region-wide would cost $12m to $15m a year.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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