Peter Sullivan has seen a lot of grass cut in his time but the City Services supervisor says the growth this season is unprecedented.
”Just as quick as we mow it, the grass is growing up behind it,” he said.
After years of drought followed by this year’s big wet, City Services knew it had a job on its hands but the sheer volume of grass has been overwhelming.
”We were prepared for this year but it’s just growing more than we ever expected,” Mr Sullivan said.
But he reassured the community: “We will get your grass mowed. Staff are working seven days a week, 12 hour days to get on top of it.”
They now have some welcome reinforcements after the ACT Government announced an extra $2.1 million to lease more equipment and hire 24 new staff through the Jobs for Canberrans scheme.
The money is part of a $6 million surge to deal with the effects of Canberra’s spring wet, which is due to continue over the summer.
The rest of the money will go to repairing ACT roads, where thousands of potholes have opened up as water seeps into cracks and erodes the base layer of the pavement.
Transport and City Services Minister Chris Steel said there had been a trebling of the number of potholes usually seen around Canberra.
”We’ve fixed over 2,830 potholes over the past four months – that’s more than we deal with in one financial year,” he said.
Mr Steel said more than 120 potholes a day were being repaired involving patching, but also preventative and waterproofing maintenance to stop them developing in the first place.
He said the mowing calendar was about one-and-a-half weeks behind as staff worked with the ESA and ACT Parks to prioritise fire-prone areas.
It was now time to catch up on overgrown suburban areas but the surge would carry through into summer.
”It’s going to be a wet summer,” Mr Steel said. “This surge capacity isn’t just to deal with the backlog we have right now but actually to continue that mowing work and pothole repair work over the summer and over the next six months.”
Mr Sullivan said it had been a tough spring for his team, with some areas needing three or more mows and others such as culverts that could only be cut manually using whipper-snippers, a time-consuming exercise where the extra staff would be welcome.
”There are some spots that are really tough to get to. It’s not as easy as everybody thinks it is,” he said.
The ACT is currently feeling the effects of a La Niña weather pattern. La Niña typically increases the chance of above-average rainfall across much of Australia during spring, and across eastern Australia during summer. The last La Niña was in 2010–12.