Leafy problem for wheelchair user

By Matthew Martin

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Autumn and the onset of winter can be a lovely time in Rotorua, but not for Dickens St resident Bill Hobman.

Next to his home, on a council reserve, there are seven large trees about 40m high which drop a large amount of leaves that blow on to his property.

Mr Hobman said he'd get out and clean them up himself, except for the past five years he has been confined to an electric wheelchair and has trouble using his hands.

On the worst occasions, piles of leaves up to half a metre high surround his home, clogging up his heat pump and making it hard to get into his house.

He's already paid out more than $100 this year to have people come and clear the leaves away, but they keep on coming until the trees are bare.

"It's been a lot worse this year than it has been in the past, but it's a once a year thing and I don't think I'm asking for much."

He said he contacted the council about a month ago to explain his problem.

"I waited, but I heard nothing back. So I called councillor Mark Gould who said he would make a special request for me."

Unfortunately, Mr Hobman got no reply so he called the council again and spoke to one of the staff in the parks and recreation department.

"He told me the leaves were on my property so they were my problem.

"Maybe they could get rid of them, sell them for firewood and plant some evergreens or natives."

Mr Hobman said he wasn't asking much, just a little bit of empathy from the council over the problem.

"They would be removed in an instant if they were all over council property," he said.

Rotorua District Council parks and recreation manager Garry Page said the council did not have the resources or funding to clear leaves on private properties across the district.

"We feel for Mr Hobman and for many other people who must find themselves in similar situations. While it's nice to have leafy trees adding to our environment they can become a bit of a hassle for the short time they are shedding their leaves."

Evergreens provide welcome shade in summer but can let in sunlight in the wet and cold winter months once the leaves have gone.

"But evergreen trees result in longer term issues as they are continuously shedding foliage that needs to be cleaned up throughout the year," Mr Page said.

- ROTORUA DAILY POST

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