Residents fight to oppose “overblown” rewrite of nature strip draft guidelines

Residents fight to oppose “overblown” rewrite of nature strip draft guidelines
Brendan Rees

The leaf blowers are out for a group of South Melbourne green thumbs who have vowed to create enough noise to keep their beloved street gardens.

Dozens of busy bees have popped up in the neighbourhood with nature strip gardening having grown in popularity during lockdowns – which has seen Moray and Cobden streets transformed into pockets of lush vegetation.

But the fun trend could be nipped in the bud with the City of Port Phillip having drafted a rewrite of its nature strip guidelines which could see street gardens – some decades old – subject to removal.

Under the draft rules, about which the council is inviting the community to have its say before February 13, the minimum clearance distances from kerbs, driveways, and footpaths would greatly impact what residents could plant.

South Melbourne resident Emma Cutting, who has launched a petition to save the street gardens which has garnered almost 6000 signatures, feared the rule rewrite would see gardens removed at “council’s whim”, which she described as “overblown” thinking.

While she acknowledged there was a need for an update to create clear and safe guidelines, Ms Cutting said community members “really want” to work with the council to “find a balance between safety and gardening to “benefit the community and the economy.”

“The more I talk to people, the more people want to make a difference. The flow-on effects from street gardening are wonderful and should be encouraged,” she said.

She said benefits included increasing biodiversity, improving food security, addressing urban climate change like heat island effect and water retention and other health issues.

Ms Cutting, who founded local community greening initiative the Heart Gardening Project, said she was glad the “amazing community” had so far “made enough noise” to have the feedback on the guidelines extended from December 15 to February 13 but hoped the “enormous restrictive” clearance areas would be “hugely reduced” or “deleted”.

The draft nature strip guidelines stipulate plants must be one metre from the edge of the kerb, one-and-a-half metres around service pits, one metre from the edge of a driveway, and under half a metre high within two metres of a driveway.

Mayor Marcus Pearl said the council was reviewing their draft guidelines to “ascertain how to support this practice while maintaining safety and accessibility along our nature strips”.

“After emerging from lockdown, we have seen an increase in residents gardening on nature strips across Port Phillip. To support this growing interest, we’re reviewing our Nature Strip Guidelines to ascertain how to support this practice while maintaining safety and accessibility along our nature strips,” he said.

“Tree health is a key consideration when assessing existing nature strip gardens and council officers will work with the community to find a solution that is appropriate for safety and tree health.”

“We welcome feedback from our community on this initiative and encourage residents to visit our Have Your Say page.”

Cr Pearl said safety included everyone being able to use the footpath, drivers seeing people walking and cycling, people being able to get out of a parked car, workers safely accessing service pits, space for bins and rubbish collection, and ensuring light and access is maintained.

Public feedback will be accepted until midnight February 13 •

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