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Plants returning to Masterton’s traffic islands

Masterton District Council chief executive Kath Ross and Mayor Lyn Patterson. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

Variety of drought-tolerant plants to be chosen

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At ease everyone – plants are to return to the traffic islands at either end of Masterton but they will be drought-tolerant plants, drip-fed water.

The brightly-coloured annuals of the past that sucked up water from a sprinkler system that also wet the road aren’t making a comeback.

The issue has galvanised many in the town. There was a vigilante planting and lately there’s been talk of a protest. The issue has demonstrated people are passionate about the town, but it has also been dismissed by some as a
first-world problem.

Mayor Lyn Patterson moved this week to address the long-running saga, saying drought-resistant plants were likely to be planted in the traffic islands in May.

She’s pictured with chief executive Kath Ross at the Hosking Garden, which is watered with a hand-held hose when water restrictions are in place.

Patterson points out you can’t water traffic islands in the middle of State Highway 2 with a hand-held hose so the chosen plants will be tolerant of dry conditions and a drip-water system is being worked on.

“We can still have nice bedding plants in the north and south end but they may not be the bright colours many of us have enjoyed, and I am one of them.

“Our responsibility is to still provide a nice entranceway with drought-resistant plants,” she said.

She said it was unfortunate the bare dirt in the northern entrance traffic islands this summer had coincided with work on the outdoor swimming pool, the next thing people see when they arrive in town from the north.

But the work on the pool had to be done in summer and it will save water as the pool had been leaking for many years.

The council wants to show leadership on the issue of water conservation.

“We want to lead by example,” Ross said.

She said the council did not know what would happen in April weather-wise and NZTA was also resurfacing the road around the traffic islands at the north end of town.

Patterson said “change is hard and some of it is in the messaging”.

But she said the rivers in the region had never been so low and water conservation was a region-wide issue the council wanted to lead on.

They’re not saying what plants will be planted but point to examples of plants tolerant to dry conditions included in the Masterton Town Centre Developed Design report by consultants Boffa Miskell.

They include some salvia, geraniums and lavenders as well as native grasses and flaxes.

One advantage of the break from planting the islands this summer is that in future the plants in the traffic islands can be similar to those in the town centre redevelopment, and it has allowed the council to take on board feedback from a survey on the town welcome.

The council opted to have a broader look at how Masterton “welcomed” people into town and commissioned a survey by SIL Research.

It also held meetings with the Solway Neighbourhood Planning Group and the Lansdowne Residents’ Association.

A report to a council meeting on Wednesday noted only 8.1 per cent of survey responses were from people aged under 18 when this group makes up 26 per cent of the population.

Still, flower beds were the most mentioned topic, with 57 per cent of residents mentioning flowers or flower beds.

“The comments suggested overall disagreement with the idea of removing the flower displays. Solutions proposed included drought-resistant planting and an improved watering system,” the report to council said.

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