CONSIDERING NATURE STRIPS

nature strip n. (plural nature strips) (Australian) An area of grass beside a roadway, possibly with a few trees or shrubs, lying in between the footpath and the roadway proper. On a public road this is public land but by custom is mowed etc by the owners of adjacent private property.

To the untrained eye, a nature strip may be as simple as its definition suggests – a narrow strip of grass with a tree and the odd bin on rubbish collection day – but to a Landscape Architect who is involved in the planning and design of streetscapes it is so much more. The humble nature strip has the potential to become a space for local communities to develop, grow and socialise.

Councils across the State employ different approaches when it comes to the treatment of nature strips. Recently, some Councils have adopted policies which allow residents to replace existing grass surfaces with compacted gravels or mulches. Other Councils have gone a step further and begun allowing residents to appropriate their nature strips in their own individual manner (subject to Council approval) – with many residents taking the opportunity to plant native grasses, shrubs and flowers and even, in some cases, fruit and vegetables!

Allowing residents to appropriate their nature strips throws up broad questions about the role of streetscapes and the quality of place. The once uniform tree-lined streets with neatly mown grass verges might, perhaps, become a thing of the past as nature strips reflect day-to-day society in becoming more diverse, sustainable and environmentally friendly.

Perhaps the planted nature strip can also help create better communities by promoting a sense of spirit in the street and by engaging and encouraging residents to work together to establish and maintain their common streetscape. Or perhaps the planted nature strip is just another maintenance nightmare for the Council waiting to happen?