Accusations of plot over unkempt verge

Dunedin resident Stephanie Haworth sits on a grass verge outside her Maori Hill home, which was...
Dunedin resident Stephanie Haworth sits on a grass verge outside her Maori Hill home, which was mown against her wishes. PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY
A woman living in one of Dunedin’s wealthiest suburbs is receiving backlash from nearby residents over a decision not to mow the grass verge in front of her home.

Maori Hill resident Stephanie Haworth stopped mowing the verge in front of her Claremont St property after learning about the positive effect on the environment of allowing the grass to grow.

However, in two separate incidents on Tuesday, people attempted to mow the grass verge for her, which was an unwelcome gesture, she said.

By about lunchtime, someone had mown the verge without her realising and later in the day a young man arrived and continued to mow the verge, Mrs Haworth said.

She confronted the man, and after a conversation with him had suspicions neighbours had put him up to it.

"I heard there has been this plotting to cut my berm while I wasn’t looking ...

"I feel I’m being ganged up on from all sides by people who are meant to be my neighbours."

While she trimmed the verge outside her home, she stopped mowing the lawns inside her property two years ago.

"When you mow your lawn, you destroy the ecosystem because you take away the bees and the flowers.

"And when the grass is shorter, the roots won’t grow to absorb the carbon."

People needed to stop worrying about manicuring nature, she said.

"Nature is not symmetrical, and we are destroying our environment for the sake of suburban normality."

She had approached both police and the Dunedin City Council about the issue.

Police said it was not a criminal matter, and the council told her while it was a resident’s responsibility to mow the verge outside their home, there was nothing stopping someone else maintaining it.

Yesterday, Mrs Haworth unveiled a mural outside her home in the hope of spreading the environmental message.

Banksy’s Balloon Girl served as the inspiration for the mural but instead of a red balloon hers was green to represent "contained nature".

Council transport group manager Jeanine Benson said its policy stated the nearest property owner was responsible for maintaining the grass in front of their home, though the area was counted as a council road reserve.

"The council will maintain verges in special circumstances, for example if there are access or mobility issues involved."

- Additional reporting by Helen Holt

To mow or not to mow

Dunedin City Council grass verge guidelines
  • Maintenance of all grass verges is responsibility of  nearest property owner.
  • Council will maintain verges in special circumstances, such as access or mobility issues. 
  • If property owner exempt, council maintenance  limited to grass cutting.
  • Council undertakes an annual review of exceptions. 
  • Council only maintains council-planted street trees and sprays or removes roadside vegetation deemed   a safety issue or  noxious weed.


View all

Agitation in quiet fastnesses prompted by the Pioneer taming of nature impulse.

It is better to control these plant though as they are exotic and to have them grow out would lead them to spread to our native bush. Kind of double standards to say you are doing this for the environment and meanwhile have the extremely invasive thistles growing on council land that you allow to grow unkempt.

Surely the council should step in here and maintain 'their' verge for the good of the other residents in this street, how many weeds are seeding and spreading? How many vermin are congregating and multiplying in her untended yard ?surely this is a health and safety issue with vermin and risk of fire ?.

Perhaps Stephanie should cash up and move to the country where her views are more acceptable ? Maybe Waitati residents would be welcoming.

Perhaps you should cash up and move into a high rise concrete central city apartment block where you will not have to worry about nature and all it's vermin. Maybe a place where your views will be more acceptable!

Goodness! How is it any more of a health and safety or fire hazard than having any other type of plant bed in your garden? I've also stopped mowing my lawn and have since noticed a marked increase in bird song which suggests the ecosystem is healthy and diverse enough to sustain more creatures. (I'm not a scientist or an expert in this area so this is only anecdotal data based on my observations over 10 years in my house.) Stephanie is definitely not the only person living in the city who has these views - perhaps there's a shift in community thinking beginning to take place, towards a less aggressive and intrusive way of living, with the environment around us and maybe even with our neighbours. Wouldn't that be awful... Imagine if we had to tolerate people making different choices about the way they live and it turned out we could still get along ok.

Interestingly, I've been eating some of the 'weeds' out of my former lawn. They're actually pretty good - heavier going than your average lettuce but pretty tasty. I don't think anyone would class me as any kind of hippie or alternative lifestyler or whatever springs to mind but I am definitely open to new things.

"Council transport group manager Jeanine Benson said its policy stated the nearest property owner was responsible for maintaining the grass in front of their home, though the area was counted as a council road reserve" so can we get reductions in our rates seeing as the council is absolving themselves of this, why not?

So exciting! While it is a resident’s responsibility to mow the verge outside their home, there is nothing stopping someone else "maintaining" it. I wonder if that means if I think the berms up my street would be better maintained and look better if they were dug up and vegetables planted I should just go ahead and do it. Be down to how well I continued to maintain them I guess.

The status of grass verges is a fascinating one. The property owner does not own the grass verge outside their home, yet is expected to maintain it. But despite maintaining it, they have no rights over the verge. Before Christmas, Delta (as contractor to Aurora) replaced a pole outside a neighbouring property. For several days a truck with signwriting describing it as a "Temporary Substation" was parked on the grass verge. When Delta left, the verge was a mess. They made no attempt to repair the damage their work did. The truck left deep ruts on the verge. Mowing this mess is going to be a nightmare but no-one cares. Not Delta. Not Aurora. Not the DCC. But you can be sure that the DCC will wiggle a disapproving finger at the property owner if they don't maintain the verge due to the damage. And let's not get started on the mess left all over the city's footpaths and verges by Downer when they were installing fibre optic cable everywhere for several years. The DCC turned a blind eye to the appalling reinstatement work there. If you are expected to maintain the verge you should be able to contact the DCC and have repairs effected. Good luck with that.

Lets set the record straight here - Whilst the council might have a "policy" that residents look after the berm outside their place, there is absolutely no legal requirement that forces anyone to be responsible for property that is not their own. The words "policy" and "guideline" say it all. Who do you think pollards all the trees on the very same berms? It's not the residents!

Mow the lawn

I am one of the residents that has voiced my disapproval. Despite what this "mural" is trying to convey, this is not some ecological utopia. It's a neglected, smelly (rot and animal poo scented) verge filled with overgrown introduced plants. Between it and the overgrown hedge, it is not pleasant place to walk by.

Insect populations are suffering “death by a thousand cuts”, with many falling at “frightening” rates that are “tearing apart the tapestry of life”, according to scientists behind a new volume of studies.

The insects face multiple, overlapping threats including the destruction of wild habitats for farming, urbanisation, pesticides and light pollution. Population collapses have been recorded in places where human activities dominate. - The Guardian

View all

Our journalists are your neighbours

We are the South's eyes and ears in crucial council meetings, at court hearings, on the sidelines of sporting events and on the frontline of breaking news.

As our region faces uncharted waters in the wake of a global pandemic, Otago Daily Times continues to bring you local stories that matter.

We employ local journalists and photographers to tell your stories, as other outlets cut local coverage in favour of stories told out of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

You can help us continue to bring you local news you can trust by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter