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Retiree facing $7600 council fine over 'meticulously looked after' plants

Mornington Peninsula man Neil McPherson said his set of agapanthus regularly attract praise from locals, but that could all be about to end.

An Aussie retiree has waged war with a local council after he was ordered to remove his agapanthus plants from a nature strip, which they say were planted there without proper permission — or face an almost $8000 fine.

Mornington Peninsula man Neil "Mac" McPherson said his recently renovated carport and set of agapanthus regularly attract praise from neighbours, including from those who have been "embarrassed" by their own after seeing his. But now, after six years, the retiree has been told by council they've got to go, and if he doesn't remove them, he'll face a $7692 fine.

According to the authorities, McPherson had no permission to plant the agapanthus on the council-owned land, and the construction of a concrete path leading to his carport is "illegal". But the 79-year-old argues that all you have to do is take a look at the council managed land in comparison to that out the front of his property to see which is better looked after.

Neil McPherson pictured here with his agapanthus plants, that he's been ordered to remove by Mornington Peninsula Council.
Mornington Peninsula Council says Neil McPherson illegally planted the agapanthus, but he argues that they're well looked after, much better than those council managed land. Source: ACA

Retiree says plants 'meticulously' looked after

Side-by-side images show the land out the front of McPherson's home flourishing, with green grass and healthy plants, while a nature strip across the road — managed by the Mornington Peninsula Council — hosts dead plants and brown grass.

"We've watered and meticulously looked after them the whole time," McPherson told A Current Affair. "I love the aggies. My wife's an aggie girl," he said, adding that the only reason council even noticed the agapanthus was after an inspector came out to the property when he applied for a permit to construct the carport.

Neil McPherson is seen here wanting his agapanthus plants, which Mornington Peninsula Council has ordered him to remove.
Neil McPherson planted a handful of agapanthus along his nature strip six years ago, but now he's been ordered to remove them. Source: ACA

"While [the inspector] was here, he took a photo of our aggies along the kerbside and sent a notice to compliance saying these are against the bylaws," McPherson recalled. "It must have been an overzealous person. That's how it all started.

"If I hadn't applied for a carport I wouldn't have this problem I'm having now."

Mornington Peninsula Shire issued McPherson with a notice to comply last September and now, he either has to remove the agapanthus at his own expense, or pay the fine.

What do you think?

"It's shocking. I've spent hours awake at night, mad as hell. But I'm a bit old fashioned and I ain't giving in," he said. "You'll find them everywhere [the agapanthus]. There's no question [the council have] got it out for me," he said.

"It's got to be discriminatory because you'll find other examples of it everywhere. So why me?"

Hundreds of agapanthus in the area already, McPherson claims

It's understood there are hundreds of the agapanthus plants on the surrounding nature strips in the streets near McPherson's property. The retiree said he's applied for leniency, but so far his appeals have been rejected. "It's just made our life a bit of a misery and at our age we don't need it," he said.

"All we've asked for is a fair go and some common sense. What really is lacking here is good old fashioned common sense — and [council] haven't got any."

McPherson added that he believes council must have "taken a management course from Vladimir Putin"

A side-by-side view of the lawn out the front of McPherson's property (left), where he's 'illegally' planted the agapanthus, and council managed land, (right).
A side-by-side view of the lawn out the front of McPherson's property (left), where he's 'illegally' planted the agapanthus, and council managed land, (right). Source: ACA
McPherson's agapanthus plants, which he's been instructed to remove.
McPherson now faces an almost $8000 fine. Source: ACA

Standing firm on their stance, the Mornington Peninsula Council doubled down on their orders to have the plants removed.

"This issue relates to the illegal construction of a concrete path and the unauthorised landscaping of a nature strip," a council spokesperson said. "No fines have been issued but Mr McPherson has been asked to remove the landscaping from the nature strip outside his property.

"The Shire did not take six years to issue a compliance notice. We responded to this issue as soon as it was reported to us."

In Australia, it varies from council to council as to whether a nature strip can be converted into a garden or tweaked by a resident.

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