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Canberrans can now grow plants, shrubs on nature strips under new guidelines

Lachlan Roberts 12 August 2019 108

ACT Greens’ Caroline Le Couteur and SEE-Change executive officer Edwina Robinson. Photo: SEE-Change.

Canberrans can now grow plants, maintain veggie patches and garden beds on the green spaces outside their homes after the ACT Government released new guidelines for using residential nature strips.

According to new guidelines, residents are now allowed to use the nature strip outside their home to plant groundcovers, native grasses and shrubs up to 50 centimetres in height, or 20 centimetres in a bushfire prone areas.

The guidelines also allow low growing vegetables and fruits to be planted on the nature strip, like pumpkins, potatoes, zucchini and strawberries.

Compacted gravel is allowed on up to 50 per cent of the nature strip, with the remaining area to be used for low-level shrubs or grass for water filtration.

Canberrans can also install brick, stone or timber garden edging up to 15 centimetres high, while temporary protective fencing can be used for new grass and shrubs for up to 13 weeks.

Residents though will need to gain approval if they want to install irrigation systems, synthetic turf, bollards or a second driveway. Parking cars, trailers and caravans on the nature strip are still prohibited.

The guidelines state that ponds, water fountains, retaining walls, letterboxes, chicken runs, shipping containers, play equipment, concrete paths, new trees and permanent fencing are unlikely to be approved.

A clearance zone of 1.5 metres is required for essential services to allow easy access, such as power poles, electricity mini pillars, manholes, meter boxes, water and wastewater utilities.

Not everyone would be able to enjoy this new liberty however, with residents living in heritage precincts or designated areas unable to make changes to the nature strip in front of their home. The nature strips at certain housing precincts in Ainslie, Braddon, Reid, Barton, Griffith and Forrest must remain open and grassed, the guidelines state.

The guidelines also suggest talking to your neighbours before making any changes to the nature strip.

The guidelines said that while nature strips are public land and not part of residential property leases, it is well recognised that a shared maintenance approach between government and the community provides the maximum opportunity for individual and city-wide benefits.

Executive officer of SEE-Change, a local grass-roots sustainability organisation, Edwina Robinson drafted the guidelines and said she believes many Canberrans were unsure about the laws around nature strips.

“A lot of people, particularly in some of the newer areas, did not understand that though they don’t own the nature strip, they need to maintain it,” Ms Robinson told Region Media. “When I was drafting the guidelines, I drove around Dickson and took some photos of some streets.

“There were so many cars parked on the nature strips. Parking on nature strips is really bad for trees because it compacts the soil and stops water from getting in. Other people don’t want to maintain the grass on their nature strip so they replace it with gravel, which gets pretty hot and it’s horrendous.

A clearance zone of 1.5 metres is required for essential services to allow easy access. Image from guidelines.

“On the other extreme, you have people who have huge bushes on their nature strips and that is not great either. You need to have a happy medium and still have visibility.”

Ms Robinson said nature strips had started to become a “wasted resource”, a sentiment echoed by ACT Greens leader Shane Rattenbury.

“Nature strips are a key feature of Canberra’s garden city character,” Mr Rattenbury said. “They are designed to present an attractive street frontage and are typically planted with grass and street trees.

“In the face of issues such as climate change, peak oil and drought we must start to think more strategically about Canberra’s food security, which is largely reliant on produce imported from interstate.

“Simple measures that allow and encourage residents to grow their own food will have an impact in the longer term on Canberra’s reliance on imported produce.”

Read the new guidelines here.

For more information on heritage precincts (and the ACT Heritage Register) visit or call Access Canberra on 13 22 81, or for designated areas, visit or call the National Capital Authority on 6271 2888.

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108 Responses to
Canberrans can now grow plants, shrubs on nature strips under new guidelines
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6:03 am 13 Aug 19

I love the way the article mentions cars cannot park in nature strips! It’s a canberra thing that happens. It’s even worse in the newer areas because of the building regulations. The gov is just not requiring enough car spaces!!

5:47 am 13 Aug 19

Always wanted a vintage tractor - my wife will have no objections now!

11:49 pm 12 Aug 19

I hope it is made clear that no one the right to prevent others from walking past their house on the nature strip and forcing other to walk on the footpath. Even in a culdsac.

I hope it states that it is ok as long as there a space for people to walk through a space un hindered by low branches or leaves at least 1650mm wide by 2200mm high.

    9:58 am 13 Aug 19

    Why can't you just walk on the footpath. The rules say that must not be blocked? Also, plus there must be a 1.5 metre gap between the street and the road. Walking through a cared for garden, stepping on plants, is just vandalism.

    12:32 pm 13 Aug 19

    Not every street has a footpath. I really appreciate nature strip gardens, but some householders seem to go out of there way to prevent pedestrian access.

    12:07 am 15 Aug 19

    Julie Macklin I love walking around nature strip gardens. But loath being force to walk my dog on the street because parking of cars and then the gardened nature strip block access I have to un-train my dog to never go on the street :(

    12:01 pm 15 Aug 19

    Alex SmilyLex The rules say there must be an unblocked path on the footpath (so that means to me either concrete or grass/chips...clean of plants), so you shouldn't need to walk on the road. If the footpath is completely blocked report them. I have a concrete path and I keep plants clear of that; as I do also on the road side.

    12:02 pm 15 Aug 19

    Julie Macklin Its a shame not all are as thoughtful as you :)

    7:51 am 16 Aug 19

    Julie Macklin - footpath? What’s a footpath?

    8:47 am 16 Aug 19

    John Kerry Tozer The example in the photograph above. That's like my footpath; it is against the private land's border. I didn't have one at my previous house, but that was a loop street and a footpath was not so necessary there.

11:00 pm 12 Aug 19

Let me know when they are allowed to have front fences so they can use the other third of their over-proved property..

    11:27 pm 12 Aug 19

    Demi it’s ridiculous that we can’t have front fences in Canberra! Of course, the people in the fancy suburbs like Red Hill and Forrest get to have tall hedges that have the same effect, but we suburbanites in less posh suburbs are banned from front fences. Must surely be time that policy was abandoned!

    11:49 pm 12 Aug 19

    We are also not permitted to have front fences but plants achieve a better effect.

    6:27 am 13 Aug 19

    Margie Naylor plant trees and bushes and hedges.....

    10:40 am 13 Aug 19

    We have quite a private front garden. Strategic trees and bushes and a little bit of effort goes a long way!

    10:48 am 13 Aug 19

    David your front garden is magnificent! And mine is getting that way thanks to you ... main problem at the moment is the construction [finally, after five years of promises] of the footpath on both sides of the street! Plus I have a couple of trucks from next door parked in my driveway because they have tilers in, and parking isn't allowed on either side of the street :)

9:57 pm 12 Aug 19

Wonder how many personal use only plants will you see on the nature strips now.

9:42 pm 12 Aug 19

Mitchell Patel I'm growing a fat cherry tomato plant this summer

8:55 pm 12 Aug 19

Brost Freezeman ... no front fence allowed? ... only back fence?

8:32 pm 12 Aug 19

Michael Cain Drew Alsford heck yeah

8:02 pm 12 Aug 19

How long till we can have a front fence?

    8:00 am 13 Aug 19

    Cam McKinnon just build it ! Who’s checking ?

    8:21 am 13 Aug 19

    Peter Bucke nosey neighbours...

    9:32 am 13 Aug 19

    Plant Leighton greens, 1m spacing - your neighbours will be in awe of your 5m high fence in 5 years

    1:37 pm 14 Aug 19

    Jan Martin good idea, but by nosey neighbours I meant folks who might complain to council about a fence going up.

    Although your right about the tree option.

    Am planning on planting a line of petisporums (spelling).

7:51 pm 12 Aug 19

Hannah Cresswell Zac Miner extend the veges!!

7:38 pm 12 Aug 19

Fredison Vu Tang Nuykhen LOL cos you were way ahead of us. Greg Boschman more succ space???

7:33 pm 12 Aug 19

Sue Steve Mil don't tell Baba and Deda 😂

7:30 pm 12 Aug 19

More room to play Meg Nog

7:19 pm 12 Aug 19

Excellent, now I just want to be able to put a fence out the front

6:44 pm 12 Aug 19

Thomas fruit trees out the front?

6:34 pm 12 Aug 19

Clyde Gillanders, more space for your lovely garden

6:27 pm 12 Aug 19

Veggies .....hmmmmm

6:17 pm 12 Aug 19

Where does the nature strip start and finish if there is no footpath?

    6:37 pm 12 Aug 19

    or where the driveway concrete line is, or where the nature strip tree is...

    7:06 pm 12 Aug 19

    The water meter is a lot further back than the line isin the driveway! 😀

    6:20 pm 15 Aug 19

    Joshua Andrew Morgan what about the side that has the nature strip & the footpath still to their water meter?

    11:08 pm 15 Aug 19

    Not always the water meter. In my older suburb many of the meters are back from the border. Here it's usually the mail box that's a good indication. Actually, the footpath too, as that is constructed so that it edges the private land.

    7:56 am 16 Aug 19

    Joshua Andrew Morgan - actually it’s whoever it’s shown on your block plan, usually 6 or 9 metres from the back of the kerb. Go to ACTMAPI if you want to check.

6:16 pm 12 Aug 19

Actually there’s a brochure that says we are not supposed to park on nature strips. And I wonder if they’ve warned that the nature strip might have to be dug up from time to time

    5:28 pm 13 Aug 19

    Not just nature strips get dug, but gardens too if they have a sewage easement. My back vegetable garden at my last house was dug up twice. Ruined the soil I had been improving for twenty years. I was left with clay, although I know the workmen did their best to avoid this. And it wasn't a small hole either, as the pipes under my garden were very deep. The footpath of my present house was dug up too, but shallow compared to the open cut mine needed at my last house's back garden, so much less damage. Now hopefully that won't be needed to be re-dug for many years.

6:09 pm 12 Aug 19

Great! So I can tell the tradie who argued with me about it not being my land to get off the garden!

    6:13 pm 12 Aug 19

    Joshua Andrew Morgan yes true but why would he want to knowing the damage it’s causing.

    6:28 pm 12 Aug 19

    Frederica Heacock it is not your land

    6:28 pm 12 Aug 19

    Joshua Andrew Morgan he definitely had choices

    6:29 pm 12 Aug 19

    Joshua Andrew Morgan smart for who?......having gravel laid is inviting people to park on it

    6:32 pm 12 Aug 19

    Jackie Fuller yes this is exactly the discussion we are having. We can plant it out, maintain it and add value to the street and environment only for someone to come along and defiantly do what ever they want and destroy your hard work

    6:35 pm 12 Aug 19

    Frederica Heacock allow to put stones and raised garden bed to certain height so no car can park over it.

    6:52 pm 12 Aug 19

    Joshua Andrew Morgan no, nobody should be parking on the nature strip. That’s always been prohibited, and that hasn’t changed.

    Refer to page 15.

    6:53 pm 12 Aug 19

    Joshua Andrew Morgan not allows to park on nature strips!

    7:30 pm 12 Aug 19

    Joshua Andrew Morgan the guidelines say that you can’t park in nature strip - not residents not anyone else

    11:51 pm 12 Aug 19

    Is it still illegal to park on nature strips unless there are mountable kurbs????

    10:37 am 13 Aug 19

    Joshua Andrew Morgan I bet most tradies visiting houses don't have 'permit and fencing', or need them. When I last had tradies at my house (major pumping work), they didn't find the need to park on the nature strip.They parked in the driveway and on the street, even when there were several vehicles here. Besides, the rules say that 1.5 metres must be kept clear between the road and the garden, so even if the tradie mounts the gutter with their vehicle and parks partly off the road, that should still avoid driving on the garden. I also don't believe most tradies would be inconsiderate enough not to avoid as much as possible a well kept garden. I once had a seriously deep trench dug in my back garden (at a previous house) to get to mains sewage pipes (very deep there) and the workmen did their best not to do more damage than necessary. I know there are some 'dogs' out there, but give most tradies more respect than that.

    5:36 pm 13 Aug 19

    Frederica Heacock actually you don't even own the land your house is on A.C.T land is only leased

    7:41 pm 13 Aug 19

    Joshua Andrew Morgan i would like to see you try without knocking down the tree the government so graciously planted on my nature strip!


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