Spring is here and the grass is growing. Around our neighbourhoods the berms (grass verges) are looking either very shabby or immaculately well kept. This is because from 1 July Auckland Council stopped mowing the grass and the service has been brought into line with the old council areas of North Shore, Waitakere and Manukau (saving ratepayers around $3m per year). Officially we are now all “responsible” for taking care of the berms adjacent to our properties with some exceptions. The details are on the Auckland Transport website.
Many residents prefer to maintain “their” berms as they can do a much better job than the contractors. It is also an opportunity for neighbourly interactions and to look out for elderly residents. A few years ago Grey Lynn 2030 started a project to create bio- corridors on the berms. We think the new mowing arrangements are a perfect opportunity to revive this project for the benefit of the environment and our community.
The goal is to create a beautiful and diverse urban landscape that supports a rich mix of flora and fauna; where nature is visible and celebrated; with streets where people, plants, birds, bees and insects flourish. By thinking about the berm as a “bio-corridor” we will end up with beautiful streetscapes; a perfect habitat for birds, bees, native invertebrates (such as lizards) and urban insects. Berms that are planted with suitable species support local pollination and bird life, reduce stormwater runoff and soil erosion, improve air quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
If residents start taking responsibility for planting and maintaining the berm outside their own house it is hoped that over time gardens will form a continuous corridor in any street. In the same way as the Franklin Rd Christmas lights, each house will have a different garden but together they will form a congruous whole. The gardens combined will be visually stunning and create a cohesive landscape that is pleasant to walk and play in.
Grey Lynn 2030 encourages you to only plant what you are willing to take responsibility for and to avoid trees and structures. Ideal plants include hardy, low maintenance, flowering perennials and small shrubs. Native plants provide habitat and food for native flora and
fauna. All year round flowering plants are ideal for bees. For example; lavender, hebe, native grasses, pohuehue (muehlenbeckia) manuka, swan plants, wild flowers, borage, nasturtium and comfrey.
If in doubt contact Auckland Transport and stick to the following guidelines for planting on berms:
Only low-level planting should be used. This should not impede pedestrians, restrict visibility or create a safety hazard for motorists or cyclists.
The planting must not affect the operation of utility services which are often located on the verge.
The planting should be maintained regularly.
Trees, large boulders, shells and similar, harder landscaping measures should not be used.
While there is some effort involved to start, once established planted berms will be low maintenance and much less work than lawns! We look forward to seeing a whole new urban landscape flourish.
Pippa Coom, Grey Lynn 2030 Trustee
This article was first published in the October edition of Ponsonby News
Updated advice from our Grey Lynn 2030 gardeners:
The best way to get started is to kill off the grass by putting down carpet or cardboard and holding in place with bricks.