The whys and wherefores of bylaws: nature strips

by By SANDI MILLER
9th September 2019

COUNCIL AREAS have many different rules and bylaws in place that residents must adhere to when going about their daily lives.
Sometimes quite differently in each of our two municipalities.
In this new series the Diary seeks to clarify what can and cannot be done under these local laws.
This month we investigate the what and the why around nature strips.

What exactly is a nature strip?

According to VicRoads, a nature strip, sometimes called a road verge, is defined as “the area between a road and adjacent land and includes — amongst other things — areas of grass, cement or gravel, dirt and driveways — it does not include the kerb, shoulder of a road or a bicycle path, footpath or shared path”.
Given the semi-rural environment in Warrandyte and North Warrandyte, nature strips are a bit of a grey area for many people — we often do not have the standard footpath and strip of lawn that you see in the urban areas of the municipalities.
So what does that mean for homeowners and occupiers?

Can I, can’t I

Nillumbik CEO, Carl Cowie advised the Diary that it is “accepted practice that residents maintain the nature strip abutting their property as an extension of their garden”.
However, contradicting this, he also said residents must not remove or prune indigenous vegetation, non-indigenous vegetation or trees on nature strips or rural roads without Council permission, and if a resident wants to plant on the nature strip, they need written permission from Council.
“The resident must submit an application that includes a map of the area and a list of the plant species intended for planting,” he said.
The proposed species must be from the Live Local Plant Local publication.
Mr Cowie says Council is responsible for maintaining trees on council land.
“Residents are allowed to remove plants on the weed list of the Live Local Plant Local publication,” said Mr Cowie.
In Manningham, road verges are council owned land, these can be traditional style nature strips, road reserves or tree reserves.
Manningham Director of City Planning and Community, Angelo Kourambas told the Diary Council is responsible for managing trees on council land, however in contrast to Nillumbik, this includes removing ivy and other weed species from nature strips.
“We encourage residents to contact us about any trees on their nature strips that may require attention, so that we can have a qualified arborist inspect the tree and schedule any works,” Mr Kourambas said.
He said while residents aren’t permitted to do their own planting on council land, residents that would like a tree or additional planting on their nature strip should contact Council to request this.
“We will then investigate options for the specific area.”
There are also different rules that apply depending if you are on a Council road or a main road managed by VicRoads, with slightly different vegetation removal rules depending on the speed limit of the adjoining roads, these can be found at www.vicroads.vic.gov.au
Nillumbik’s website discusses how roadsides adjoining Council roads fall into two classifications, Low Conservation Significance or High Conservation Significance.

Properties classified as Low Conservation Significance under Local Law No. 5 can undertake the following without a permit:

• The removal of fine ground fuels (grass, leaves, twigs, loose bark).
• The removal of regionally controlled weeds and those weeds listed in Council’s guide Live Local Plant Local.
• Maintenance and mowing of any part of the road reserve containing exotic vegetation abutting the property.
• The removal of vegetation that has fallen onto the road from the resident’s land.
• The removal of vegetation that is the subject of a fire prevention notice.
• Participation in works undertaken by friends groups, Landcare groups and community fireguard groups in accordance with an agreement approved by Council.

Properties classified as High Conservation Significance under Local Law No. 5 can undertake the following without a permit:
• The removal of regionally controlled weeds and those weeds listed in Council’s guide Live Local Plant Local.
• Maintenance and mowing of any part of the road reserve abutting the resident’s property comprising exotic vegetation.
• The removal of vegetation that has fallen onto the road from the resident’s land.
• The removal of vegetation that is the subject of a fire prevention notice.
• Participation in works undertaken by friends groups, Landcare groups and community fireguard groups in accordance with an agreement approved by Council.

Further information, including a copy of Live Local Plant Local, is available on the Nillumbik website: nillumbik.vic.gov.au/Living-in/Roads-Drains-and-Paths
Further explanation of what residents can and can’t remove can be viewed under “Roadside Vegetation Removal” via nillumbik.vic.gov.au/Living-in/Fire-and-other-emergencies/Preparing-for-fire.

Parking 

Paths, nature strips and dividing strips are not constructed for the parking of vehicles.
Parking on them can damage the nature strip surface, trees and root systems, kerb and channel, paths, house drain connections and other underground services, and it can also impact sight lines for drivers and pedestrians.
Mr Cowie said, “you are not allowed to park on or store any type of vehicle or trailer or building materials on nature strips”.
Parking on nature strips is not permitted under Victorian road rules legislation, this can be enforced by Victoria Police and/or Council.
Mr Koroumbas said, when investigating parking on nature strips, Manningham Council officers will consider the location, whether damage is being caused, along with visual impacts for drivers and pedestrians in the area.
The VicRoads website confirms that a driver must not park on a bicycle path, footpath, shared path, dividing strip, or a nature strip adjacent to a length of road in a built up area, unless the driver parks at a place allowed by a parking sign.
A motorcycle rider can stop on a bicycle path, footpath, shared path or dividing strip, or a nature strip adjacent to a length of road in a built-up area, in a place where the motorcycle does not inconvenience, obstruct, hinder or prevent the free passage of any pedestrian or any other vehicle.
Mr Koroumbas said residents can report illegally parked vehicles to Council at any time for investigation.