'Ganged up on': Neighbours 'plot to cut berm' in wealthy suburb

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 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.

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