Bernard Orsman

Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Berms: Politicians say it with flowers

Pippa Coom says bees and butterflies love her planted berm. Photo / Richard Robinson
Pippa Coom says bees and butterflies love her planted berm. Photo / Richard Robinson

Two Auckland Council politicians are flouting council rules by planting flower beds on their berms.

Councillor Cathy Casey and Waitemata Local Board member Pippa Coom are proud of their flower beds, with Dr Casey saying it was easier to maintain flowers than mow a berm against a wall at her Mt Albert home.

Ms Coom said not everyone wanted verges to be mowed and her planted berm in Grey Lynn was about having a diverse landscape.

The bees and butterflies loved it and it gave her a chance to talk to neighbours, she said.

Auckland Transport could help out, she said, by setting guidelines about what could be planted.

A council debate on the berm issue yesterday also heard of cases of people planting flax and corn on berms.

Defiance of the rules angered councillor Denise Krum, who said the approach of planting corn, flax and flowers and politicians' behaviour sent a message to residents that anything goes.

"The whole thing is a dog's breakfast," Ms Krum said.

Auckland Transport road manager Alan Wallace said berms were generally not the place for vegetable gardens and fruit trees.

"It's a public domain. It is not the landowners' land," Mr Wallace said.

Later, Auckland Transport communications manager Sharon Hunter said no action was taken against people who planted flowers and other plants on their berms. They would only be asked to remove plants that grew high, obscured a street sign or became a hazard.

Last October, Ms Hunter said people had to apply for a licence to plant on berms.

Since then, Auckland Transport's policy on berms has "evolved" after the council voted to save $3 million by not cutting berms in the old Auckland City Council area from July last year.

After initially making few exceptions, Auckland Transport has resumed mowing where residents cannot or refuse to do so.

It has dumped the exemption policy, which required people to provide a medical certificate; and is taking a relaxed attitude to people planting berms.

Mr Wallace said the earlier policy was aimed at encouraging people to mow their berms. However, without the legal means to enforce the issue, Auckland Transport would now mow the less than 2 per cent of berms that people would not or could not mow.

- NZ Herald

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