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Aucklanders subject to 'ridiculous' new berm planting restrictions

Auckland residents may be forced to dig up their roadside gardens under "ridiculous" new berm planting rules.

A vegetable garden planted on a berm. Source: Supplied

Private planting on roadside berms will become a permitted activity, as gardeners are forced to apply for a $150 licence for written approval by Auckland Transport.

An Auckland Transport spokesman told ONE News that what the authority is proposing is "actually a lot more relaxed than what was done under the old councils".

"Generally berm planting was not allowed under any circumstances whereas now it would be allowed with controls."

You have a responsibility as a berm gardener. If my [plants] encroach on the footpath, I chop them back - Berm gardener Denise Bijoux

However, Denise Bijoux, the manager of berm gardening Facebook page On the Verge, said it was "ridiculous" to charge $150 for a licence.

Under the new rules plants of less than 30cm in height are allowed on the berm, or near letter boxes, as long as it does not exceed an area of two square metres.

Planting is permitted on the "back berm", the area on the edge of a property, provided the plants are no more than 60cm in height.

Fruit and vegetable trees have been banned, and plants must have a "shallow root mass", while excavations are to be no more than 20cm deep.

An adjoining landowner has no more right of use of the road corridor outside their property than any other party - Auckland Transport

Ms Bijoux said there were examples worldwide that showed berm gardening was beneficial to a city and neighbourhood.

"The City of Sydney allows it, and advocates biodiversity with berm gardens slowing rain fall and cleaning stormwater."

She said the ban on fruit and vegetables trees, which was likely to avoid attracting vermin, was "silly", because the produce is eaten quickly by residents.

"You have a responsibility as a berm gardener. If my [plants] encroach on the footpath, I chop them back ... sometimes a gentle reminder is better than a heavy handed response."

A berm garden in Auckland. Source: Supplied

Plants of a "noxious or invasive species" are also banned, and berms must also be replanted in grass on request by Auckland Transport or when the property is sold.

"In practice some discretion is applied with landowners only asked to remove un-authorised plantings if the planting poses a nuisance or a complaint is received from an adjoining landowner," the Auckland Transport spokesman said.

He added the new rules where to help ensure safety, stop damage to utilities, street appearance, maintenance, and the ongoing debate between "blurred" public and private boundaries.

"An adjoining landowner has no more right of use of the road corridor outside their property than any other party. They also have no right of ownership of any flowers or produce grown in the road corridor."

Auckland Transport has received feedback from various local boards on the issue, with some is understood to be critical of the new rules.

Similar restrictions on berm planting are in place in Hamilton and Tauranga, where city councils approve selected planting but the resident is responsible for on-going maintenance.

Nelson residents can apply for a berm planting exemption, but in New Plymouth planting is banned.

However, in Wellington, the city council provides free native plants suitable for berm planting.