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Hutt public gardens protest growing

Last updated 10:52 01/05/2012

Future look: This display at the Petone Memorial Gardens, with ``scarlet'' carpet roses as groundcover, flax, toi-toi and a kowhai tree may be typical of the new approach for street gardens in Lower Hutt.

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City councillors have confirmed only 11 of the city's 34 bedding gardens will continue to feature formal displays of flowering "annuals".

But parks manager Bruce Hodgins said in the move to more trees, shrubs and native plants, where it is needed colour impact will still be maintained through foliage and seasonal flowering.

Despite the pleas of Keep Hutt City Beautiful representatives Mike Fisher (Petone Community Board) and Sue Lafrentz (Central Community Committee), councillors agreed to the change in emphasis first signalled last year.

Their unanimous decision was based on the cost of paying contractors, the declining quality of flower displays, and some severe problems with weed infestations, poor drainage and soil health.

It would cost $30,000 to renew the soil in the Riddiford Gardens "long bed" alone.

After an initial one-off cost of $93,000 to put in different, more permanent plants, the council expects to save $103,000 a year.

Mr Hodgins insists it isn't just about money.

A comprehensive presentation by gardens technical adviser Chris Close showed councillors how bedding displays work best in a park setting, where the flowers can be enjoyed close-up and the plants will thrive.

On city streets the impact of bedding displays is lost or shaded "and trees are a better option for reducing the impact of large buildings, bringing unity and creating a more intimate and attractive space".

Letters of outrage have already started coming in to Hutt News.

"We expected polarisation, and views from traditionalists," Mr Hodgins said.

"It will be a different look but we think it's a better approach in the long run - and more sustainable."

Beds where flowers will be kept are all in the vicinity of the civic centre, Dowse and library, though the display at Wainuiomata Service Centre will also escape the chop.

Even these central area gardens are subject to review, as earthquake strengthening work and a redesign of the main civic building gets under way.

Mr Hodgins said it is probable the back of the civic building will have a more open design, to discourage the "less desirable" behaviour that can happen in Riddiford Gardens.

Other forms of planting may be more suitable.

Councillor Max Shierlaw said officers had gone out of their way to make sure politicians knew why they were advocating change.

As an operational matter, they could have just fired ahead.

Anyone who had seen Mr Close's presentation - with compelling evidence of "bedraggled", "waterlogged" and diseased flower gardens - would see the proposed change is correct, he said.

The rose gardens by Kelson Community Centre showed how more permanent plants could still look magnificent and colourful.

Councillors agreed with Mr Fisher's proposal to review again the best approach to take at Petone Memorial Gardens.

Only Cr Angus Finlayson raised a voice against.

Remembering the days of Mayors Dowse and Kennedy- Good, he said Lower Hutt once had a reputation for the best public flower gardens in New Zealand, if not the southern hemisphere.

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He asked why their quality has slumped so badly and told Hutt News he believed changing the look of all but 11 of the gardens was "going too far".

Mr Hodgins said gardens in locations such as Bloomfield Tce, Victoria St, Buick St, Pharazyn St and Wingate would get their new look in the spring and autumn plantings.

- Hutt News


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