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$1000 fee leaves sour taste

MARYKE PENMAN
Last updated 09:44 17/01/2013
lemon
Photo: BEN WATSON

FRUITY PROBLEM: Leader of the Community Fruit Harvest, Di Celliers, is shocked at the exorbitant fees involved in planting fruit trees on public land.

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The leader of a charity group is gobsmacked at the $1000 fees demanded by Auckland Transport to consider her application to plant a lemon tree on public land.

Di Celliers heads the Community Fruit Harvest group that picks fruit for charities. She wants to see more fruit trees planted in public parks and on roadsides.

The Browns Bay resident says feijoa, cherry guava and olive trees would be much better than existing roadside plants such as the potentially poisonous white cedar trees that line Torbay's Glamorgan Dr.

But when she inquired about planting a single citrus tree in her quiet cul-de-sac she was astounded to find it would cost her $1000 in a non-refundable deposit for Auckland Transport to consider her application.

She was also told that it would probably be declined.

A response from an Auckland Council arborist, who is involved in managing street trees on behalf of Auckland Transport, outlined several reasons why fruit trees should not be planted on roadside berms.

"There are likely to be issues with debris drop and vermin being attracted to the fruit . . . Street trees need to be crown raised to allow clearance and sight lines beneath, making the fruit inaccessible . . . Safety issues may arise if we attract people to road carriageways to gather fruit."

Mrs Celliers says a blanket ban approach is not justified.

"They're telling me I can't plant a little lemon tree. Their argument is so nullified because if you drive around you'll see pohutukawa and pine tree roots coming through the footpath."

Anyone wishing to lodge an application must also provide a plan, a map and the type of tree they wish to plant. Auckland Transport warns that additional fees could follow as the application progresses.

"The council attitude just stuns me. These people are employed by us as ratepayers," she says.

"Rather than making more restrictions they should be bending over backwards to make things like this happen for the community's benefit."

The one size fits all fee structure is a lazy approach, Mrs Celliers says.

"They are not prepared to install new fees to fit the type and purpose of the tree.

"They are forcing people to undertake guerilla tactics. But if you go ahead and plant it anyway you are fined $1000 and $50 for every day it is left there."

The council says the non-refundable deposit "partly covers the time spent by each department in considering encroachments".

"Encroachments are typically of a more substantial nature than tree planting and the fee reflects this - we cannot however adjust the fee due to the nature of the encroachment."

Its suggestion to instead plant the trees in a community garden is missing the point, Mrs Celliers says.

"I don't want a community garden, I just want one lemon tree. If it's in your neighbourhood you're more likely to make the most of it and take pride in it."

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- North Shore Times

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