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Dust-up at council over flower beds

Pansies at the northern roundabout in 2011. PHOTO/FILE

Town needs flower power
Missing pansies spark lively debate at meeting

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The saga of the demise of the pansies in the northern traffic islands in Masterton has taken another twist – it turns out Masterton District Council bought plants and never planted them.

Councillors at Wednesday’s meeting were wading through a big agenda in an orderly fashion when the meeting sparked to life at the mention of the flower beds in the chief executive’s report.

The report said a Facebook poll on the council’s page registered 83 per cent support for plantings of drought-tolerant plants and only 17 per cent wanted to keep the thirsty bedding plants.

Councillors just were not buying it.

Cr Gary Caffell said a large number of people had spoken to him about it.

“I have been stopped more in the street over this than on any other subject while I’ve been on council in the past nine years.

“I would say that 90 per cent of the people are saying, ‘What the hell are you doing, and why haven’t you got plants in there’,” he said.

The brightly-coloured bedding plants got the chop because they use the equivalent of 100 baths full of water every week during summer and council wants to show leadership on the issue of water conservation now that total watering bans are possible if river flows get too low.

Cr Deborah Davidson set off the debate when she asked: “Have we bought flowers we are not going to use?” and was told, yes, but was told they would be given to community groups.

Councillors leapt to their feet to ask why there was just dirt and oxalis weeds where the pansies had once been a splash of colour that welcomed visitors.

Cr John Dalziell said he was shocked there was only 17 per cent support to retain the bedding plants. He was disappointed something else wasn’t planted immediately.

The council should have looked at whether changes to the irrigation system could be made so less water was used as it was common with the existing system to see water running down the road, he said.

The kerfuffle at the meeting came after a post on the Masterton Matters Facebook page said a visitor to Masterton from Palmerston North who had once found the northern entrance to town to be uplifting now thought it was sad and dreary.

“I love coming to Masterton but am very disappointed that what has always been a highlight has gone.”

Caffell agreed the traffic islands looked sad and said something had to be planted there.

He said if drought tolerant plants were to be planted why were they not being planted now.

“I know it might seem trivial to some people but it is almost one of the more famous things about Masterton,” Caffell said.

“I just cannot understand why we are waiting as long as we are to plant anything. It just does not make sense.”

Chief executive Kath Ross said it was a health and safety issue as there was work being done on the bridge.

She said council was researching “what is our welcome” and “what could the entrance to Masterton look like”.

The beds would be weeded and tidied up to a minimal level while it was decided what would go into that space.

Caffell didn’t buy that.

He said it would only take one or two days to put plants in the beds. “I’m still disappointed.”


  1. With all the rain we’ve had recently, there is no excuse to not plant. Cutting costs is one thing but blatant waste is quite another, the ordered bedding plants should have been planted and something more “drought tolerant”, (really?), be decided whilst they were blooming. Lack of forethought through and through, who makes these decisions? Obviously not the councillors.

  2. my visitors not impressed with the weed ridden bits of dirt on the town entrance.its xmas, high tourist time,bridge is finnished,go plant the plants council.

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