Battle of the berm

JOE DAWSON
Last updated 05:00 11/12/2013
Allan Spence
GONE FERAL: Allan Spence says it should be easier to get help mowing berms like this one.

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Have you given in and mowed your berm yet?

If you were hoping Auckland Transport might give you an exemption, you could be out of luck.

More than 160 people claiming they can't mow the the grass verges outside their properties for health reasons have asked for assistance from Auckland Transport - but only eight have met the criteria.

It was back in July that former Auckland City residents learned they'd no longer see council contractors mowing the berms.

When the we asked Auckland Transport in October how many applications for exemptions had been granted, the answer was eight. Three of those were for health reasons and the others were deemed inaccessible or too steep.

Orakei resident Allan Spence has been keeping his berm neat and tidy but says others on his street are not - and they're lowering the tone for everyone.

One of his elderly neighbours says she is not fit enough to mow her berm herself and can't afford to pay someone to do it.

At 76 Mr Spence says he is happy to look after his own berm but is not up to taking on anyone else's.

He has complained to Auckland Transport but had no response.

"It's just appalling, it's like a hayfield," he says of one particularly overgrown specimen. "The owner tells me she's too old and too poor to do anything about it.

"It's got now to a stage where it's beyond the capability of an ordinary mower.

"At the end of the day I'm just angry that nobody seems to be able to do anything about it."

He says the number of people being knocked back for assistance is "terrible".

"I assume all those [requests] are genuine so what do they expect people to do? A lot of those people are elderly or frail. Some people might be able to take up the slack but others just can't do it.

"It seems ridiculous especially considering the money being spent elsewhere.

"I think the policy should be very much more relaxed so it's easy to make arrangements to have them mown, and not have people like me go through an interminable battle to keep the city tidy."

Auckland Transport says it will consider looking after berms in certain situations including if they are steep, in front of unoccupied properties and causing a traffic hazard or in town centres.

The agency will also step in if there are exceptional circumstances but requires a medical certificate that verifies the need.

Otherwise people are asked to be "good community citizens" and take pride in their neighbourhoods.

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Spokesman Mark Hannan says feedback on the policy has generally been positive.

"Obviously some people have complained but they are very much in the minority."

He is aware of neighbours stepping up to help those who can't mow their berm.

That is the case for Balmoral resident Jim Silva who says a heart condition makes getting the berms done on top of his own lawn impossible.

"I haven't been mowing my berm, it's all I can do to mow my lawns and I can't do them all in one go," the pensioner says.

"But the neighbours have offered their son and they seem happy to do it."

How is your street looking? Are your neighbours rolling up their sleeves or refusing on principle to get out the mower?

Write to us: edeb@snl.co.nz or Private Bag 56910 Dominion Rd.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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