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melbourne pollinator corridor heart gardening project city of port phillip emma cutting

Cutting said after the initial eight-kilometer pollinator corridor is established, it will be expanded elsewhere in Melbourne. And she has had inquiries about starting versions in Adelaide and Sydney.

Cutting, a music teacher and keen gardener, who in the past suffered from chronic fatigue syndrome, said street gardening helped her get out and connect to the community.

One greened-up street in South Melbourne in December 2021.Credit:Eddie Jim

“It’s such a positive activity, it ticks so many boxes to do with improving mental health, greenness and liveability, and I’ve seen what it does for biodiversity.”

In December she told The Age that the council’s original specifications for distances between plants and curbs, driveways, trees and services infrastructure would be too limiting.

The petition also claimed that well established gardens that did not adhere to the new guidelines would have been subject to removal “at council’s whim”.

But Cutting said after negotiation with the community, the council’s final guidelines would allow a lot more street gardening and preservation of existing plots.

“They’ve gone from [in the original plans] almost all existing gardens being non-compliant to having a level of compliance,” she said.

The council originally wanted a 1.5-metre radius around every utility such as power poles and NBN pits but have now agreed for it to be a 30-centimetre radius, except for fire hydrants where it remains 1.5 metres.

An early draft said residents could not plant within 1.5 meters to 2.5 meters of a tree; that has now been changed to 50 centimeters.

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In addition, the council minutes on the resolution state that “modifications to current nature strip gardens will only be requested if safety or access concerns are raised”.

Cutting said she supports council restrictions to protect tree health, and also residents’ accessibility and safety in relation to paths and roads.

“But they’re not the only considerations. We also need to think about climate change, biodiversity, community health, mental health, street amenity and liveability”.

Port Phillip Mayor Marcus Pearl said: “We have listened to our community and believe we have come up with the best possible way of greening our city through beautiful street plantings while not risking the safety of people with mobility or vision concerns.”

They said ripping out established nature strip gardens was never part of the council’s plan. It wanted to address complaints that gardens were extending over footpaths or obscuring children’s crossings.

Pearl said the council is looking into ideas such as de-paving to provide more space for street gardening and hiring a part-time community greening officer to provide advice, information and organize workshops on gardening in public open space.

“We are looking forward to even more residents wanting to beautify their nature strips and enjoying the social connection this can bring under these clear guidelines.”

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