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Berm mowing change welcomed

KARINA ABADIA
Last updated 05:00 14/02/2014
Dr Cathy Casey
CREATIVE SOLUTION: Albert-Eden-Roskill councillor Dr Cathy Casey has sown wildflowers in a berm against her boundary wall in an effort to ‘‘beautify the berm’’.

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Knee-high grass in residential areas should become a thing of the past with Auckland Transport committing to regularly mow unkept berms.

Contractors will maintain berms on an as-and-when-required basis to keep the grass at an acceptable length in cases where residents are unable or unwilling to mow it themselves.

Auckland Transport spokesman Mark Hannan says unkept berms are likely to be mowed every six to eight weeks. But this does not represent a change in policy, he says.

Orakei councillor Cameron Brewer disagrees, calling it a back-down.

"The mayor adopted a cold turkey approach last year by ceasing berm mowing in the isthmus suburbs from July 1 to supposedly save $3m.

"It's great news that some sanity has now prevailed after a lot of ratepayers' money and staff time has been wasted fighting frustrated residents," Mr Brewer says.

Maungakiekie-Tamaki councillor Denise Krum agrees.

"The service was just cut. At the very least they should have gone to the polls to find out if people still wanted it as part of their rated suite of services."

She thinks every local board should have the opportunity to decide on whether funding from the annual plan should be spent on berm mowing.

In a regional strategy and policy committee meeting on February 4, Mr Brewer's amendment to support "the backdown" was passed unanimously.

At the same meeting councillors Mike Lee and Christine Fletcher's amendment to have the council's berm policy reviewed because of public concerns was lost 12 to 7.

Opinion was also divided on whether planting on berms is acceptable.

Ms Krum voiced opposition to the fact that some councillors have planted gardens on their berms, calling it a "hillbilly approach".

"You've got councillors advocating for planting corn, flax and flowers. If you're going to open up the box for planting greenery of all sorts then why can't people start parking there cars there? If one thing goes, why can't anything go?"

Albert-Eden-Roskill councillor Dr Cathy Casey says this attitude is "ridiculous".

There are two berms in front of her Mt Albert property; one between the boundary and the footpath and a larger one next to the road.

The grass against the wall is very hard to access even with a weed-eater, she says.

She has sown wildflowers in the grass against the wall which should bloom in the latter part of the year.

Until then she intends to regularly mow the berm.

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"We are very hopeful that come spring it will be a riot of colour next to the wall," she says.

She has not asked permission from Auckland Transport because she has done nothing wrong, she says.

But private planting in the road corridor is generally not permitted because it can pose a safety risk or may damage public property, Mr Hannan says.

For instance if plants grow too high it can be difficult for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians to see.

The roots of some plants can also cause damage to underground infrastructure such as sewers, power cabling and gas lines, he says.

Guidelines around what people can and can't plant would mitigate these issues, Dr Casey says.

"You should be able to plant low ground flowers maybe even some vegetables. It's a productive thing to do to get people involved in the berms so instead of just berm mowing it's footpath gardening."

- Central Leader

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