What's wrong with a bit of DIY roadside berm beautification?

Mobility scooter users, those with failing eyesight, parents with prams - these are some of the people who want council rules on berm encroachments to get even tougher.

It’s not just councils that are going ape over guerrilla gardeners. Source: Fair Go

Geoff Benge, one of 180 or so mobility scooter users in Waikanae, is calling for urgent work in his part of the country. He's fed up with overgrown vegetation blocking his path, and branches that interfere with riding on pavements.

He saw the story on Fair Go two weeks back about a berm encroachment in New Plymouth, caused by a planter edging 60cm or so onto the Council berm. Geoff sympathised with the garden owner that it wasn't much of an encroachment, but felt strongly that if one person is allowed to break the rules, it will lead to others breaking them, and cause further problems for pavement users elsewhere.

Geoff is keen for the Kapiti Coast District Council to start taking action before there's an accident. The response of the council was that they would "investigate all complaints received about berm encroachments and take appropriate action where there are significant safety and accessibility issues".

They added that "when investigating complaints we aim to strike a balance between retaining the historical character of an area, safety and accessibility."

Another Fair Go viewer, David Baker, who is blind, also wants councils to take a harder line. He accused the New Plymouth council who featured in our original story of double standards.

In his view, the council put the spotlight on the encroaching planter because it was a hazard. Yet, they were happy for it to stay if the owner paid an annual fee. This raised a further question in David's mind, "if a blind person falls over and injures themselves with such an approved exempted obstacle will the council compensate them?”

It's a fair point so we asked the council for their response. They said that the fee was charged because the planter in question was "built on public land which does not belong to (the owners), and they have not asked for permission."

They added that "we don't believe there's a safety hazard, and we've looked for a compromise with (the owners) by asking them to pay an encroachment license". It doesn't strictly answer David's question, but highlights the fact that every council faces a balancing act. After all, beautification of an area with greenery is to be commended, but many feel  safety should come first.