Students of Silverdale School made signs of support for ‘Planet berm’.
Plantings on the berm – the area between a house and the pavement – are fairly common on the Hibiscus Coast but one in particular has attracted national attention recently.
Garden writer and teacher Dee Pinéguy says she planted the berm outside her Manly property in a range of perennials and fruiting plants to prevent flooding.
“In heavy rain, the driveways across the road turn into rivers, and our property was repeatedly flooded,” Dee says. “Planting a rain garden, to absorb that water, was the obvious solution.”
The berm attracts bees and other insects and is popular with passers by, including children who pick flowers and fruit. “They like it because it has a bit of wildness about it,” Dee says. She also uses it as a teaching resource.
However, berms are owned by Auckland Transport (AT), and the plantings do not comply with its guidelines.
A neighbour has complained more than once about lack of maintenance and AT is investigating.
The guidelines on its website recommend low level planting, less than 300mm tall, that must not encroach onto the footpath. Plants are required to have a shallow root mass so as not to damage underground utilities and on-going maintenance by the property owner is required.
AT will not answer questions about individual complaints, but spokesperson Mark Hannan says, “We do not all have the same taste in gardens. People can make the call about their own property but they share the streetscape with neighbours and we have to try and please everyone.”
The issue attracted coverage on national radio and television recently.
Dee says that these kinds of plantings are the way of the future, where wild spaces within urban areas will be an environmental necessity.
She says repeated complaints have only made her more determined.
“We don’t comply with the rules, because it would mean flooding,” she says. “It is not one size fits all. The alternative is re-engineering the road and driveways.”
Hibiscus Matters got in touch with the neighbour concerned, who wishes not to comment.
Dee Pinéguy is Hibiscus Matters’ gardening columnist.