Al­ter­na­tive ideas

Auckland City Harbour News - - FRONT PAGE - By JOE DAW­SON

STOP ar­gu­ing about who mows the berms in Auck­land and look for other so­lu­tions.

That’s the mes­sage from land­scape ar­chi­tects to coun­cil­lors and res­i­dents.

De­bate over the berms has pro­vided an op­por­tu­nity to think about al­ter­na­tive ways to con­struct streetscapes, New Zealand In­sti­tute of Land­scape Ar­chi­tects mem­ber Sally Peake says.

The Auck­land Coun­cil has stopped mow­ing berms and is ask­ing res­i­dents to do it in­stead.

‘‘My per­sonal view is we tend to be rather rigid in think­ing of streetscapes full stop,’’ Ms Peake says.

‘‘I would cer­tainly like to see other ap­proaches.’’

Ms Peake says bushier berms would bring sev­eral ben­e­fits.

‘‘A good ex­am­ple is on Jellicoe St (in Wynyard Quar­ter) which has some quite lus­cious plant­ing.

‘‘It of­fers a stormwa­ter so­lu­tion as well as pro­vid­ing high vis­ual amenity. It’s an ex­cel­lent al­ter­na­tive to grass.’’

Stormwa­ter is fil­tered by the plants which strip it of heavy met­als from the roads.

She says the ini­tial set up costs would be sig­nif­i­cant but on­go­ing main­te­nance would be lower.

‘‘It would be far cheaper over the long term if you have a full canopy.’’

Unitec land­scape ar­chi­tec­ture head Re­nee Davies agrees other op­tions should be con­sid­ered but says suc­cess would rely on a group ef­fort.

‘‘The main is­sue as I see it is the will­ing­ness for the coun­cil’s home­own­ers, renters and com­mu­nity to work with each other to put in place such in­no­va­tive ap­proaches.’’

Berms with more ex­trav­a­gant plant­ings can be­come a li­a­bil­ity for coun­cils if left un­tended.

‘‘So coun­cils of­ten re­quire own­ers to take to­tal re­spon­si­bil­ity for the berm plant­ings.

‘‘Maybe there is an op­tion for a shared ap­proach util­is­ing the fund­ing that would oth­er­wise be spent on mow­ing con­trac­tors to es­tab­lish the in­fra­struc­ture for more in­ter­est­ing streetscapes.’’

But Auck­land Trans­port, which is re­spon­si­ble for the berms, says they cover un­der­ground ser­vices in­clud­ing gas, power and telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions which is why grass is pre­ferred and why park­ing on them is pro­hib­ited.

Spokes­woman Sharon Hunter says work­ers may need to gain ac­cess to un­der- ground ser­vices at any time.

The coun­cil stan­dard­ised ur­ban berm mow­ing ser­vices through­out the re­gion in its cur­rent an­nual plan.

Prior to the for­ma­tion of the su­per-city only berms in cen­tral Auck­land were mowed by coun­cil con­trac­tors at an an­nual cost of $3m.

Pro­vid­ing berm mow­ing ser­vices re­gion-wide would have cost ratepay­ers an ex­tra $12m to $15m a year. Gen­er­ally the re­spon­si­bil­ity of mow­ing grass berms now rests with the own­ers or oc­cu­piers who are asked to take pride in their streets.

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