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The Independent discovered that there are quite a few verge gardens established in Maclean: here are three of them. Pics: Geoff Helisma.

Gardening on the verge

The Independent discovered that there are quite a few verge gardens established in Maclean: here are three of them. Pics: Geoff Helisma.
The Independent discovered that there are quite a few verge gardens established in Maclean: here are three of them. Pics: Geoff Helisma.

Verge gardens could soon become a common sight across the Clarence Valley if a policy to allow them is supported.
At the October council meeting, a majority of councillors supported Cr Craig Howe’s Notice of Motion (NOM) for “staff [to] investigate and develop a policy on verge gardens”.
Councillor Howe’s NOM stated: “They can contain edible items creating ‘food walks’ in communities where this is appropriate or non-edible floral type gardens, creating a pleasant environment for residents and visitors alike.
“The intent is to develop a policy allowing residents to create and maintain their own ‘verge gardens’; not for council to create and maintain them.”
Councillor Andrew Baker provocatively opposed the idea.
“I understand that this is attempting to create a policy to allow one resident to not have to comply with current council requirements for the removal of a verge garden and so we’re…” he said, before being interrupted by Cr Howe: “Point of order Mr Mayor; that’s not what it is.”
The mayor did not respond before Cr Baker continued: “… the proponent, I understand, the lady who claims to be the instigator … is known to this council as a result of considerable, enthusiastic opposition to development in the immediate area.
“…This is an awful, ugly looking thing, the verge garden.”
Councillor Howe called another point of order: “What does this have to do with the motion? We’re attacking a ratepayer, I don’t like…
Councillor Baker continued: “There is no attack Mr Mayor, but I can understand … Cr Howe jumping to a conclusion. This is an awful, ugly thing, this verge garden; it has no place in Maclean.
“…Having taken into account the staff comments, some 15 or 16 of them, we’re looking to … deny the council’s requirement that this ugly thing be removed … we are just creating work for council, work for council staff.
“…So Mr Mayor, if we are going to create any sort of understanding from the community, we shouldn’t allow this to take place for that particular area or indeed anywhere else in Maclean – I don’t care about the other areas, but this one is not something for Maclean.”
Councillor Margaret McKenna spoke in favour and pointed out that “at the moment we are including Maclean” in the Clarence Valley local government area.
“I’d like to listen to members of the community, who are more than just one, who have requested verge gardens to me,” she said.
“[I’m] willing to listen to staff after they investigate it. Then they can give us the report that may or may not contradict what Cr Baker said.”
Councillor Karen Toms said “letting people start gardens on verges is heading into dangerous territory”.
She was wary that creating a verge gardens policy would cause “issues in the future” when people move on.
She said that a garden constructed at Ford Park, as part of the ‘Edible Yamba’ pilot project, was an example of why she did not support the proposal.
She said nearby residents “didn’t want it” and that the majority of the gardens that were constructed in or near the Yamba CBD “are now gone, except one that the chamber of commerce has taken on”.
Cr Toms advocated finding out “how many people really are interested in the idea” before developing a policy.
Speaking in favour of the proposal, Cr Sue Hughes said it was “a brilliant concept” that would “bring the community together”.
She feared that if the council rejected the idea it could lead to a front page story, “in The Independent, anyway”, about the council’s opposition to “a really good community program”.
Councillor Hughes said that all of the Edible Yamba gardens, apart from the one at Ford Park, are “still highly functional” and maintained by a Yamba Chamber of Commerce working group.
Mayor Richie Williamson spoke briefly in favour, saying that “safety will have to be taken into consideration”.
“I’m comfortable to have a look at the concept,” he said.
Councillor Howe acknowledged that Cr Baker was “in some respects correct, in other respects he has jumped to a conclusion”, and that the ratepayer he referred to was in fact the ‘proponent’.
However, he said “more than one person has interest in this”.
“… We do need a policy, because currently you’re not allowed to do it – and that may well become our policy position.
“How are we going to find out what our community wants … unless we go out and investigate and ask them?
“Develop a policy, then go out on exhibition and let people tell us whether or not it is a good thing.”
Councillors Williamson, McKenna, Howe, Kingsley and Hughes voted for the proposal; Crs Baker, Toms and Lysaught opposed.