Is Duncan Street’s Nature Strip Now Safe?

Cr Geraldine Knapp at Duncan St

Bayside residents have vowed to stop council plans to eliminate this nature strip.

Subsequent media coverage by ABC Radio and Channel Ten TV on Tuesday 27th May 2008, it now appears that Brisbane City Council are willing to discuss ways to retain and improve this community asset!

Here’s the original story

In some of Brisbane’s streets vandalism is declining, community spirit is rising and nature is thriving as residents demonstrate how to make city living more sustainable and pleasant. Local residents are calling on Brisbane’s Lord Mayor to intervene in Brisbane City Council’s orders that residents should destroy a source of community pride – a thoughtfully planted nature strip – and return it to barren turf.

Seven years ago, Wynnum West residents Elizabeth and Ken decided to improve the amenity value of their street. Out went the turf and in went plants. Using native bird and bee-friendly plants Elizabeth and Ken literally added ‘Nature’ to their nature strip.

Amazingly, twenty two of the thirty seven different types of plants growing there are council favourites for kerbside plantings, yet officious officials ordered its destruction by mid-June 2008.

Sadly, council bureaucrats don’t see sustainable living as suitable for city residents, despite the Lord Mayor’s stated intention: “To make Brisbane Australia’s most sustainable city”.

If these retirees fail to remove their plants they will face a stiff fine.

Under BCC’s ‘Natural Assets Law 2003’ only council staff can plant trees or shrubs in nature strips. This indemnifies council from any claims for injury arising from planting. Sadly this discourages residents from improving the amenity value of suburbs, binding residents to a monotonous surface: turf.

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Why is this little oasis valuable?

The nature strip in Duncan Street, and its ongoing maintenance, support Brisbane City Council’s stated CitySmart environmental objectives developed “To make Brisbane Australia’s most sustainable city”.

These plantings are:

  •  Cooling our streets, reducing the accelerating ‘heat island effect’ caused by Global Warming;
  •  Improving air quality. ‘No mow’ plantings reduce petrol consumption, residential fossil fuel bills and urban atmospheric pollution;
  •  Providing pollen and nectar for native bees and birds;
  •  ‘Waterwise’, reducing domestic potable water consumption;
  •  Weed free, reducing Council costs for street weed control;
  •  Reducing stormwater. By soaking up rain better than turf, they can reduce the volume of stormwater flows;

Elizabeth and Ken have carefully followed the council publication ‘Green Choice – Gardening in Brisbane’ Gardening Guide. Through gardening they’ve made new friends. Local kids love their nature-filled nature strip and graffiti and other acts of vandalism have declined. There’s a real sense of community developing, yet all these positive benefits go unrecognised and unsupported by a local administration which wants not just turf to replace a thriving footpath, but also to compel these residents to maintain the grass they don’t want.

Turf – a monotonous legacy of cheap oil?

While turf is a superior surface to bitumen or concrete – it is a living surface – some residents believe turf is a dull, unnecessary and increasingly expensive way to use land. When this nature strip was planted in 2001, oil cost US$30 a barrel. Australia’s industrial farmers have seen the cost of petroleum-based pesticides and fertilisers triple in the past year. Oil recently hit US$135 barrel. Imagine how much petrol is being consumed countrywide mowing and edging turfed nature strips.

We’re at or have passed peak oil, so fuel prices are as low as they are ever likely to be, consequently farmers and some gardeners are trying reduce fuel bills. My nature strip took longer to cut and edge than the lawn in my back garden – it’s all edges. I gladly exchanged demanding grasses and filling a petrol can for low maintenance medicine and food plants (aloe vera and sweet potato). I can redirect my time, energy and money gardening elsewhere.

A petition is on the way, asking the Lord Mayor to intervene. Instead of removing these plants, residents are asking him to enlist his CitySmart Committee to retain Duncan Street’s nature strip and to encourage other residents make their streets even more people and environment-friendly than ever.

Turf can do with a little healthy competition in the suburbs – let’s diversify!

Jerry Coleby-Williams
25th May 2008

The following are growing in the Duncan Street Nature Strip.

An asterisk denotes plants growing here which Brisbane City Council itself grows in nature strips, kerb-sides, traffic intersections and roundabouts.

At the time I visited, the following wildlife were observed using the nature strip plantings:

Blue-banded bee, Amegilla sp.
Golden orb-weaver spider, Nephila edulis
Native stingless bee, Trigona carbonara
Noisy miner, Manorina melanocephala


Along Duncan Street

Aeonium arboreum ‘Schwartzkopf’
Bottlebrush, Callistemon hybrid *
Cosmos ‘Little Lucifer’
Crinum powellii ‘Alba’
Dianella caerulea *
Emilia fosbergii
Gazania cultivar *
Golden stonecrop, Sedum acre ‘Aurea’
Grevillea ‘Coconut Ice’ *
Hippeastrum x hybridum *
Kangaroo grass, Themeda australis *
Knobby Clubrush, Isolepis nodiflora *
Leptospermum scoparium, prostrate form *
Lomandra longifolia *
Melaleuca thymifolia *
Melaleuca species
Myoporum parvifolium, prostrate form *
Pennisetum setaceum *
Salvia farinacea
Salvia madrensis
Wallum banksia, Banksia aemula *

Sub-total: 21 taxa

Along Astley Street

Agave attenuata *
Alternanthera dentata *
Bottlebrush, Callistemon hybrid *
Cheese tree, Glochidion fernandii *
Chrysanthemum cultivar
Daylily, Hemerocallis cultivar *
Gazania cultivar *
Grevillea ‘Scarlet Sprite’, prostrate form *
Heliconia psittacorum
Hippeastrum cultivar
Hymenocallis littoralis *
Lomandra longifolia *
Madagascan Periwinkle, Catharanthus roseus

Sub-total: 13 taxa

Along property side of both streets

Gaillardia aristata cultivar 1
Gaillardia aristata cultivar 2
Grevillea ‘Ned Kelly’ *
Grevillea ‘Scarlet Sprite’ *
Leonotis leonurus
Salvia blepharophylla
Salvia ‘Purple Majesty’

Sub-total: 7 taxa

A Broad-leaved paperbark, Melaleuca leucadendron, is a pre-existing street tree.

Total: 37 taxa (different plants) growing in this nature strip

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