Poll backs no-mow policy

By Mathew Dearnaley

Overgrown berms in Mt Albert which were previously mowed by council contractors. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Overgrown berms in Mt Albert which were previously mowed by council contractors. Photo / Sarah Ivey

Most Aucklanders, with the exception of central suburbs dwellers, appear to support the controversial council decision to stop mowing roadside berms.

A Herald-DigiPoll survey of 500 Aucklanders has found 59.2 per cent support across the Super City for the decision and 34.1 per cent opposition.

Women were more in favour than men, by 63.2 per cent to 54.9 per cent.

Support ranged from 60 per cent to 70.1 per cent in areas covered by six "legacy" councils other than the former Auckland City, where it fell to 43.6 per cent.

That compared with 46.3 per cent in the central area who disagreed with the decision to stop mowing berms, and 10.1 per cent who said they didn't care.

Theirs was the only area where council contractors previously mowed berms, at an annual cost of about $3 million.

Mayor Len Brown said in defence of the decision - after it became a hot election issue - that extending the practice to all of the region would cost $12 million to $15 million.

Mr Brown said this week, in response to the poll findings, that expanding the service "would have cost ratepayers millions of dollars to provide something most people never had, never missed and never wanted".

But Waitemata councillor Mike Lee, one of three from areas of the old Auckland City who opposed the decision, said the council should not take the findings as vindication of it.

He said the council should heed discontent from the central district, where residents' rates had paid for berms to be mowed, given that it was earmarked for the greatest intensification. "It would seem the council is relying on people in intensified housing to go out and buy a lawnmower to mow the berm that the council owns," he said.

Instead of simply getting rid of private-sector contractors "who charged the council a packet of money", the city should have considered cutting costs such as by making mowing berms a staff activity or inviting a bid from Student Job Search.

Auckland Transport has granted 21 applications for exemptions to the council's new policy, such as from people too elderly or infirm to mow berms outside their homes, and has turned down 20 other requests while still assessing 70 more.

- NZ Herald

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