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Auckland City residents should follow the rest of the region, take pride in their community - and mow their own berms, says a councillor.
Rodney councillor Penny Webster says that at a time when household budgets are tight, the council cannot afford the $12 million to $15 million cost of mowing berms for the whole region.
"It's not fair that one area gets berm mowing, while other areas mow their own," said Mrs Webster, a former Act MP. "The council had to make things even without increasing rates even more."
She was disappointed with local body election candidates from the Auckland City area who were complaining about something the rest of the region did without fuss.
The council voted to save $3 million by not cutting grass berms in the old Auckland City area from July.
Waitemata councillor Mike Lee said Mrs Webster's comments were "exactly the outer suburban small-mindedness and parochialism" he had to deal with in his days at the Auckland Regional Council, and which the Super City was meant to stop.
"The withdrawal of the service is an act of bad faith by the council to its ratepayers," he said.
"The berms are owned by the council. Many adjoin intensified housing and these areas are to have greater intensification. Who is meant to go out and buy the lawn mower?"
Onehunga Mall resident Mike Haley, who sent the Herald the photo above, said he could understand the desire for savings, but the berm ruling would be to the detriment of Auckland's neighbourhoods.
He estimated that 30 per cent of berms in the area were unmown.
"I've been noticing the berms getting longer and longer ... some are just ridiculous," said Mr Haley. "It is to the detriment of our physical environment."
Mr Haley said he mowed his own berm.
Puketepapa Local Board member and Communities and Residents candidate Peter Muys said a lot of streets in Mt Roskill were looking shabby because of overgrown berms.
"Besides looking untidy, vermin inhabit the long grass and rubbish accumulates, which will lead to health and safety issues.
"The council needs to reset its priorities and care for the assets it has before embarking on expensive projects like the Manukau Whitewater Park that will cost in excess of $20 million of council funding.
"Excessive increases to rates are not necessary, it's just a matter of prudent and careful management and getting priorities right."
Eden-Albert Local Board chairman Peter Haynes said the board made submissions against the cuts, noting that councillors - including Mrs Webster - found it easy to find $3 million towards a $12 million redevelopment of the Holy Trinity Cathedral.
"A question of priorities, I guess," he said.
Mayor Len Brown is sticking to the policy of not mowing berms, while his chief right-wing rival, John Palino, has pledged to reinstate mowing and allocate more money to local boards which would decide whether to continue the service.
Readers spoke out on the Herald website yesterday.
Barry Eastwood from Epsom said cutting grass verges was a core activity of the council.
"Subsidising theatres isn't, so let's cut those instead if money has to be saved."
Richie Cunningham pointed out that the council had money to pay wardens to ticket those who park or leave trailers on the berms.
But Auckland City Maungakiekie-Tamaki ward councillor Richard Northey, who supported no-mowing decision, said feedback he had received backed the move.
"It would have put the rates up by 0.9 per cent if we had applied it across the whole region."
Mr Northey said people who had difficulty mowing their berm should contact Auckland Transport to seek assistance.
BATTLE OF THE BERMS:
Residents in the former Auckland City Council area had their berms mowed
* Residents in the other six territorial council areas did not have their berms mowed
* In July, councillors voted to stop cutting the Auckland City berms and have one regionwide policy at a saving of $3 million
* It would cost $12 million to $15 million to have berms mowed regionwide.
What do you think of the plan to stop mowing berms? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.