Auckland is known to be the weediest city in the world and Laingholm must be a contender for its weediest suburb!

By Michelle Swanepoel on 19th August 2021

When long term Laingholm resident Doreen Sunman retired in 2014, she decided to do something about it and a walk around the block identified a long list of weeds. Armed with her camera she had photographed wild ginger, woolly nightshade, pampas, blue morning glory, phoenix palm, the list goes on, and the areas needed weeding the most were most everywhere.

So Doreen’s attention fell to the very steep road reserve opposite her house. It was not for the faint of heart. A slip in the ‘60s had demolished a house and in the ‘80s a power pole had come down. In the ‘90s a road one up from theirs collapsed resulting in a much-needed retaining wall being built in the winter of 2019 to prevent any further slips.

This time, armed with her phone, Doreen tackled Auckland Transport, Auckland Council, as well as the local board. There were meetings, some ill-advised chopping which resulted in the spreading of tradescantia, flail mowing which cut back the trees but scattered weed seeds and spraying that killed everything except for the agapanthus. There were budget woes and contractors that “did not have the appetite” to remove the ginger from the site. Not unsurprising given the steep terrain and associated costs.

By now it was 2018 and Doreen had been battling to get action on the weeds for four years. One day, on a walk with friend Trish Booth and cross at the lack of progress Doreen said, “I feel like doing it myself”. “I’ll help you.” Trish responded. Enough said! Two days later, armed with loppers and a bottle of herbicide, two grandmothers with attitude entered what soon was referred to as “The Ginger Patch”. “Up until then I had only seen it from the road,” was Doreen’s comment, “I was shocked.” There was ginger as far as the eye could see and further! Undeterred Doreen and Trish started to cut and paste, a process whereby the ginger plant is cut above the pink ‘collar’ at the base and herbicide is applied to the stump. They leave the leaves to rot down on site, which also helps to prevent erosion, something that Doreen monitors closely, especially after heavy rains.

In December 2019, Doreen owned up to their weed control activity and held a meeting on site with an AT engineer and Ellice Protheroe, the Conservation Advisor from Environmental Services. The engineer didn’t understand why the ginger needed to be removed and was convinced that doing so would cause erosion. Ellice was impressed. She facilitated the necessary paperwork and they now have official approval to continue with their Retirement Project.

Trish and Doreen have completed the Growsafe Course. Doreen has also completed a Risk Management course and both ladies will soon complete a First Aid Course as well.

Weeds smother and replace native flora, can affect soil stability, composition, and groundwater, could heighten the risk of fire, and provide cover for animal pests. Wild ginger, with its shallow rooted and dense rhizome bed, when heavy with rain, can be the cause of slips on steep sites such as this one.

If you would like to find out more about the weed action or predator control taking place in your neighbourhood, email [email protected].

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