An Auckland man who says he has “had enough” of unruly berms is willing to put his money where his mouth is and pay for his neighbours’ to be mowed.
North Shore resident Rick Mozessohn is offering extra pocket money to local youngsters to help control the growth, saying inaction from council and local residents “grinds his gears”.
He posted his appeal on Facebook, sparking a debate on who is really to blame for our wild, weedy streetscapes.
“I’m happy to spend up to $100 a week dealing with the poor maintenance of the public lawns. Will be well suited to some kids looking for extra pocket money,” he wrote.
“If there’s any confusion, the messy berms on my street grind my gears. And I’ll happily spend my own money to ensure they are maintained to my standards.”
Speaking to the Herald, Mozessohn insists he is “100 per cent” serious and reveals the depth of his obsession.
Mozessohn says he has been at his Northcote property for five years and has been mowing all of the berms for 100 metres along his side of the street for the past two.
“They partially think I’m a nutcase, they partially think I’m really OCD,” he says of his neighbours.
“To be fair, so far they’d be correct, but most of all I think they like that I’m happy to use my energy to maintain everyone’s fescue to the optimal height.”
He said his neighbours would often bring him plates of food and “hugs and smiles and kisses”.
“I’m not doing it in a passive-aggressive way. I want to live in a community where everyone is happy,” Mozessohn says.
“If someone is shamed out I think they need to take a look at their victimisation response.”
He told the Herald that he was spurred to take action after seeing children trying to ride their scooters but blocked by berms that threatened to take the whole path.
Mozessohn says that was “just criminal”.
“What’s the point in having nice safe streets if you can’t even ride your scooters?”
He claims that one in three berms in his area required extra attention and believes that personal responsibility is required.
“If I want to be really brutal, I think everyone can mow their lawns,” he says.
Mozessohn admits to the Herald that there are some genuine reasons why people cannot maintain their berms, such as disability or a steep gradient.
A spokesperson for Auckland Council told the Herald that they are responsible for mowing berms adjacent to or forming part of council-owned land and facilities such as parks and reserves.
“The council will also mow along rural roads to maintain visibility and safety, which is usually about a one-metre margin on either side of the road,” the spokesperson wrote.
“Generally the responsibility of mowing grass berms adjacent to all other properties now rests with the owners or occupiers. People are asked to take pride in their streets and ensure the berms in front or to the side of their properties are mowed regularly.”
A tenant of one of the homes Mozessohn featured on social media took issue with his stance and castigated him for “calling out” other residents.
“Being the tenant of one of the houses pictured, I think we need to take into account that some people are struggling to make ends meet as it is and unfortunately can’t find the money to a) buy a lawnmower or weed whacker or b) can’t afford to pay someone to do it for us,” his neighbour wrote.
“Therefore our lawns are left until we can find a family member or friend who has one and is willing to lend it to us. [I] Think it’s pretty stink for you to take photos of people’s lawns and call them out though. I get the humour but some times things just aren’t that funny.”
In a cutting response, Mozessohn said he wished the tenant “only love” and said his original post was targeted more at council than residents – but also suggested that she could be doing more.
“If you want me to be brutal, lame excuse. When I was a tenant I bought a lawnmower on TradeMe for $15 and mowed our lawns. I had to mow it five times but it worked.”
Mozessohn says he believes berms should be maintained by the council.
“Truthfully I think it should be included in the rates. I’m sure everyone would be happy to pay an extra $5 to have all of the berms around town maintained.”
He said that although everyone maintaining their own berm would be the “ideal scenario”, the reality was that they would not.
He said that his decision to put his own money behind improving his own neighbourhood was an allegory that illustrated the need for a broader solution.
“Yes, there’s some people that deserve it and some people that don’t but then at least we get nice berms.”
He said that five young people keen on work had already contacted him.
He estimated that he would end up spending $200-$300 a week on the enterprise.
“I’m going to be spending $15,000 a year,” he said.
He said he would direct the young mowers to berms that “looked like they were struggling” and would do it all with no “expectation or obligation”.
Mozessohn told the Herald he hoped his vision would spread beyond his Northcote neighbourhood.
“Picture this,” he dreamed. “I’m driving along, it’s a warm summer day, there’s a cool breeze. Bam! Fescue is overgrown on the side of the street. Next house, bloody rye, overgrown – I can’t handle it.
“Long story short, the entire suburb needs to do it. Then the Auckland region needs to do it. Then probably Council needs to pick up on it because nobody has enough money to pay all the kids.”
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