Berm planting guidelines

Berm firth roadAt the Waitematā Local Board’s December meeting the Board unanimously passed the following resolution:

b)     That the Waitematā Local Board

i) Supports encouraging and enabling community use of berms as much as practicable

ii) Supports the development of berm-planting guidelines, which would include:

  •    Benefits of appropriate berm planting
  •    Safe depths to dig to
  •    Ideal plants in a number of categories – natives, food, trees
  •    Maintenance expectations, including in regard to safety eg height
  • Role of Local Boards in acting as a key conduit for Auckland Transport to have community relationships around berm planting
  • Working with neighbours

iii) Requests Auckland Transport develop berm planting guidelines in conjunction with Local Boards

iv)  Requests Auckland Transport report on progress to the Board’s February meeting

Herne BayBackground

In July 2013 Auckland Transport standardised the urban berm moving service so that generally all owners and occupiers adjacent to road side grass verges (berms) are responsible for maintenance. Auckland Transport has provided various exceptions such as on road corridors through town centres and on steep sections.

Following an increase in residents informally planting on the berms Auckland Transport undertook in February 2014 to draft guidelines. These guidelines have not yet been forthcoming, even in draft form, although the Community Placemaking Champions group of Local Board members (of which I am a member)  was recently briefed that “private” berm guidelines will be released for consultation in 2015.  “Private” applies to people who wish to plant a berm that is adjacent to their existing property, and will not cover community groups or gardening collectives who may wish to plant on berms.

The champions group has recognised that the guidelines provide an opportunity to support the “placemaking” function of berms and to foster the many benefits.   For example – litter reduction, storm water management, streetscape amenity values, community development and the promotion of bio-diversity.  Guidelines can provide a best practice framework for street planting while minimising the impact on the road corridor. For example the City of Sydney Footpath Gardening Policy  allows residents and businesses to put planter boxes on the footpath and/or carry out gardening on footpath verges outside their properties under certain conditions.

Hepburn StreetAuckland Transport’s approach to the guidelines (including advice currently on AT’s website which incorrectly states berm planting is prohibited) suggests that the draft guidelines are not being approached from a placemaking perspective but mainly to identify what is not allowed in the road corridor for safety reasons.

Local Boards are best placed to develop the guidelines with Auckland Transport and to assist with the smooth implementation.  I therefore recommend that the Board confirms support for encouraging and enabling community use of berms as much as practicable and directs Auckland Transport to develop appropriate guidelines in conjunction with Local Boards.

Selbourne St

Art of the possible: Hauora Garden

Hauora Garden Richard Orjis and A.D.Schierning  with Waitemata Local Board membersOne thing I love about my role on the Waitematā Local Board is being part of making small, local projects happen.  We often hear complaints that local government is slow, unresponsive and  wasteful but in my experience I have found Council staff to be passionate, creative and willing to work hard to deliver on a tight budget.   With political support they find ways to achieve, as Board Chair Shale Chambers likes to say, the Art of the Possible.

So it has been a special pleasure to see Hauora Garden spring up at Studio One, Toi Tū.  In early June I was at Studio One for Bee Jam, part of the POP programme of events (funded by the Waitematā Local Board). Lynda, Parks Team Leader was there for a visit and mentioned that there was still unallocated budget available for community gardening. Knowing that there was a fenced off overgrown section of
Studio One that  had been recently been identified as perfect for a garden I Hauora Garden Char Wiapo and Mark introduced her to Tracey the POP programme coordinator to find out if there was an opportunity for an artist’s POP project.  Fortunately Tracey knew of a  garden project ready to go (it was proposed for POP originally but did not get included in the pilot series), Shale approved the budget and everyone swung into action.

Last Saturday we were able to check out how the site has been transformed into Hauroa Garden. We always need to be careful about not ending up with unallocated budget at the end of the financial year(another criticism of council!). However I think in this case it has been a happy find that has brought about a spontaneous, creative collaboration involving artists, sponsors and volunteers that will provide long term benefits.

Hauora Garden by Auckland-based artists Richard Orjis and A.D. Schierning is an interactive and sensory space that aims to reconnect urban dwellers with the natural world. It will end up including Rongoā Māori, introduced medicinal, edible and endangered native plants.  Many of the materials found on the section have been recycled into the garden design.

Many thanks to Lynda and Tracey for the Art of the Possible and all those involved: House of Hauora Garden Bec StanleyBotanica, Colleen Brennan, Michelle de Clay, Kerrie Van Heerden, Claudia Jowitt, Daddy and the Dames, Donna Kerridge, Richard Orjis, Wednesday Night Pottery, Amiria Puia-Taylor, AD Schierning, Bec Stanley, Bonni Tamati, Imogen Taylor, The Little Caterer, H.E.P.T, CVNZ Volunteers, The Watkins, Char Wiapo and Generation Zero.

Supported by Treescape, Resene, Studio Art Supplies, Mace Contractors Ltd and Uru Whakaaro Ltd

Hauora on Facebook

Hauora Gardens reviewed by Janet McAllister for the Weekend Herald Art matters column

Beautiful Waitematā berms

Since Auckland Council stopped paying for the grass verges/berms to be mowed in October last year the landscape of our streets has been changing in new and beautiful ways. Yes there are some scruffy roadsides (and as a Board we have been following up with Auckland Transport to maintain berms that have no obvious “owner”- the NZ Herald has reported on this today) but for the most part as I travel around the Waitematā area I have been impressed with what’s starting to grow and how well cared for our neighbourhoods are looking.

There have been other spin offs too. The bees and butterflies are new beneficiaries  enjoying all the roadside food from the flowing berms (one of my neighbours has been leaving a patch of meadow grass for the bees).  Maintaining the berms encourages neighbourly interactions as I have seen on my own road. My neighbour mows our berm as we don’t have a lawn mower. I took the opportunity to meet new neighbours when they were outside planting their berm. Other neighbours finally got talking again after a long running dispute.

It’s also made me appreciate how many residents have been proudly looking after their berms for many years despite it previously being a paid service (not surprisingly as the contractors often did a very poor job).  It was only in the old Auckland City Council area that berms were mowed at ratepayer expense- the rest of Auckland can’t figure out what the fuss is about.  I am all for Auckland Transport maintaining verges that are not getting looked after (usually for very good reasons) but I think we should enjoy, encourage and celebrate our new urban landscapes that have been liberated from expensive Council mono-mowing.

More information

Berm mowing responsibilities on Auckland Transport’s website

Alternative ideas for berm mowing – Auckland City Harbour News, 9 October 2013

Tips for planting bio-corridors – Grey Lynn 2030

Update

Pimp my berm – berm planting in Elleslie on Seven Sharp 12 February 2014