DI Celliers wants to plant a fruit tree on the grass verge near her Browns Bay home. To her, it makes sense to grow a fruit tree so the community can benefit. But she's getting mixed signals from Auckland Council.
On the one hand, she says, last year's Environment and Sustainability Forum encouraged activities such as fruit-tree planting and community gardening on public and private land.
"But when I inquired from council, I was told, 'Oh, you've got to be careful of the bumpy roads' and so on."
Mrs Celliers was then directed to Auckland Transport (AT). Its officers said she would have to pay $1000 to apply for permission to plant. She was dismayed.
"To put a price of $1000 means to me that they're saying, 'We don't even want you to go there'. It's a sum of money to put people off," she says.
"The council has lots and lots of access to technology. It won't take them two seconds to identify the areas that can be planted."
In an email she was told by AT's property department the fee was the same no matter what type of "encroachment" it was on AT land. "Encroachments are typically of a more substantial nature than tree planting and the fee reflects this, however we cannot adjust the fee due to the nature of the encroachment."
The council and the council-controlled transport organisation say private planting is not encouraged.
"It is always pointed out to the customer that it is not their land, and should they proceed against our advice we may remove the planting, or if it is suitable the tree is maintained to council specifications," they say.
They cite a number of streets historically planted with fruit trees which have become a problem to maintain. Fruit trees tend to be dense and difficult to prune in a good way for drivers' visibility. Rotting fruit, vermin and street cleaning generate complaints or costly upkeep.
They point out the council has not planted any significant fruit tree on a kerb for 10 years.
Mrs Celliers is not convinced, saying the former North Shore City Council planted olives in Torbay and feijoas in Browns Bay a few years ago.
Many people have suggested she plant a tree without council approval.
"This is what council is encouraging with that exorbitant fee," she says. But any encroachment on to AT land can result in a fine of $1000 plus $50 for every day the tree remained on the verge.
She understands the council and its agencies must have rules around this issue, and some streets may not be suitable. "But look at this massive tree here," she says. "Look at the roots.
"If you go up Oaktree Ave, massive trees were planted by the council, but they don't want the public to do the same thing with a fruit tree."
The council says it has started planting fruit trees in reserves to discourage roadside plantings. But Mrs Celliers says that is not enough. "I want them to be more approachable and to work together more with the public instead of coming up with all these objections."
Auckland Council suggests community gardens as an alternative to roadside planting. There are guidelines on fruit-tree planting, and planting on verges is prohibited. If you want to plant a tree, ask the council's call centre to log a request to its replacement planting list. This list is assessed annually. The council says if the request is appropriate and the customer "is willing to accept a species that is consistent with the existing theme or something that is suitable for the location", they may proceed to plant.
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