AU City of Sydney Council plants world's most expensive hedge
Property Here - Thursday, April 18, 2013
The multi-million-dollar hedge is thin and twiggy. Picture: news.com.au Source: news.com.au
An artist's impression of the $9m council hedge. Illustration: City of Sydney Source: Supplied
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IN A case of local government spending gone mad, an Australian council is building what may be the world's most expensive hedge.
The City of Sydney Council is spending $9 million on a 1km hedge along a busy, polluted street.
The council, one of Australia's wealthiest, claims the hedge will turn one of Sydney ugliest thoroughfares into a Parisian-style boulevard.
Fume-choked Cleveland Street will "be transformed into a green hedge-lined boulevard" according to the council's lord mayor, Clover Moore, whose private home lies about 800m from the multi-million-dollar upgrade.
Preliminary work on the hedge has already cost ratepayers about $800,000 for the design, quantity surveying and about 100m of garden beds.
More than 900 Murraya paniculata plants will be installed along the street, which underwent partial planting late last year.
"Just five months later and those new plants have already formed a thick, attractive flowering hedge," Ms Moore claimed.
But when news.com.au visited the hedge, it was being used as an ashtray by smokers, with dozens of cigarette butts strewn among the plants, many of which were thin and twiggy.
According to landscape gardener, the Lifestyle Channel's Charlie Albone, the cost of building a hedge has "many variables", but he could create an entire garden for $250,000.
Mr Albone said the 900 Murraya plants would have cost between $60 and $100 each, which would mean a maximum cost for the plants of just $90,000 out of the $9 million total.
The City of Sydney said the $9 million budget included lighting, street furniture, paving and new garden beds.
In comparison, Leonardslee Garden - billed as the world's most expensive garden when it sold in 2010 for $7.38 million - is and an 80ha "spectacular landscaped woodland" in England with seven man-made ponds and thousands of flowering plants.
Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore. Picture: The Daily Telegraph Source: The Daily Telegraph
Critics say arbitrary spending decisions by maverick mayors and out-of-touch councillors is squandering ratepayers' money.
Sydney Business Chamber executive director Patricia Forsythe said Australia was over-governed with a council structure based on a "19th century" model.
Australia has 559 local councils.
"There's a duplication of jobs," she said, "I mean how many chief planners and sustainability experts do you need? They all have them. We need fewer councils and more professional councillors," she said.
Three Australian states are conducting local government reviews to consider abolitions and mergers.
The NSW Independent Local Government Review Panel is currently examining councils’ financial sustainability and decision making.
The panel believes "council amalgamations can increase economies of scale, reduce overheads and provide efficiency gains".
Queensland councils are engaged in a trial to cut planning red tape. Next week, Western Australia is holding a forum on council mergers, with recommendations to halve the number of councils.
A Sydney business operator, who asked to remain anonymous because of work relations with the City of Sydney, described it as a "very wealthy council with access to funds provided by the substantial income from the commercial heart" of Australia's largest city.
NSW Local Government minister, Don Page, said councils should "always act responsibly when spending ratepayers’ money, regardless of their cash reserves" and concentrate on delivering core services.
City of Sydney Council, which regularly comes under fire for wasting ratepayers' money, has also spent on the following projects:
• Close to $1 million on an office entrance awning described by its creator, UNSW College of Fine Arts Professor Richard Goodwin, as a "parasitic stealth wing".
• About $700,000 on a public toilet featuring a vertical garden.
• $130,000 on a musical bike path which vandals ripped up within 48 hours of its installation – the idea for the "fun footpath installation with a serious message to encourage residents to share our roads and paths, on foot or bike" came to the Lord Mayor after she watched a DVD of the 1961 musical, West Side Story.
• $90,000 on a rainbow-coloured street crossing for the annual Mardi Gras which was removed after six weeks.
• $22 million on a city swimming pool which has changed designs more than five times and now resembles, as one resident put it, "a burial mound for the Titanic", with funnels and chimneys jutting from a long, weed-covered bank.
Crazy government spending happens overseas as well.
Amid accusations of "madhouse spending" on "white elephants", councils in the United Kingdom have undergone $7.3 billion in cutbacks and shed around 230,000 jobs.
This month, Nottingham City Council in the UK spent $29,500 on "fat camp" lifestyle coaches to promote healthy living for overweight youngsters in deprived areas.
Ratepayers slammed Hampshire County Council after it cut public services, yet spent $368,500 on restoring a rusted World War I gunboat.
A 2012 report on "stupid" US Government spending included the following:
• $500 million on a program that will, among other things, seek to solve the problem of 5-year-old children that "can’t sit still" in a kindergarten classroom.
• $25 billion each year on maintaining federal buildings that are either unused or totally vacant.
• $400,000 to researchers to find out why gay men in Argentina engage in risky sexual behavior when they are drunk.
Read more: http://www.news.com.au/money/money-matters/council-plants-worlds-most-expensive-hedge/story-e6frfmd9-1226620959591#ixzz2QmBUncrc