Planting bio-corridors on the berms

berm guerilla garden Richmond roadA Grey Lynn 2030 project

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.

This article was first published in the October edition of Ponsonby News

Online Community Management at Wordcamp

Since joining the Steering Committee of Grey Lynn 2030 18 months ago I have been impressively up-skilled.  I put in a lot of voluntary hours into Grey Lynn 2030 but have been rewarded many times over through learning and networking opportunities, contact with inspiring people and a range of new skills. In particular I have been serving my apprenticeship in online community management.  Suzanne Kendrick and Jason Kemp have been wonderful trainers in the dynamics of social media and how it can be used as an effective tool to further the aims of a community group.

Jason is the technical guru behind the Grey Lynn 2030 website (currently organising Wordcamp) and Suzanne, Grey Lynn 2030 steering committee member (“internet original”), was the driving force to get the website established and working effectively to build a large supporter base. In a short time I’ve gone from a deluded critic of Facebook, twitter and blogging to fully embrace these tools. The conversion came for me once I understood that social media isn’t just about communicating mindless information with close friends but is another means of broadcasting through which it is possible to build an online community that translates into real results. Grey Lynn 2030 is now connected to over 1200 people on Facebook and Twitter with many more linked through our website. We have these “friends” because they are interested in what we communicate, want to support us in pursuit of our vision of a sustainable community and like to know that they can join in and take action too.

I am still very much a novice and have lots to learn about the online world so I feel very privileged that I have been asked to speak at Wordcamp with Suzanne about Grey Lynn 2030’s online community management. WordCamp New Zealand is a 2 day conference focusing on and around the WordPress platform. It is a global event that was held 49 times last year everywhere from California to China. I’m looking forward to being part of this exciting event (definitely not just for IT geeks!) and sharing the online story of  Grey Lynn 2030.