29 July 2022

Here's why some people would like to see less mowing in the ACT

| Lottie Twyford
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A volunteer weeds and dabs herbicide on weeds at Namadgi National Park on Sunday, 15 November.

Landcare ACT volunteers are calling for less mowing in areas where they’ve been at work replanting and building habitats for native plants and wildlife. Photo: Landcare ACT.

Mowing is a hot topic in the ACT, especially in wet years.

No sooner does the rain dry on the ground than scores of Canberrans come out to complain of long grass making their local sportsgrounds unusable or blocking the view when they are in their cars as it grows wild on roundabouts and verges around town.

In fact, so irritating is the grass that it topped the list of issues lodged with the government on the Fix My Street portal in the 2021 calendar year.

In response to this, the government announces more money and more resources. Most recently, Minister for Transport and City Services Chris Steel said $1.2 million would be allocated in the upcoming Budget to pay for 10 new staff across three mowing teams.

But more mowing isn’t what everyone is calling for.

In some cases – and some spaces – volunteer land carers would like to see the complete opposite.

jo clay

ACT Greens MLA Jo Clay will move a motion in the ACT Legislative Assembly next week calling for conservation areas to be better protected from mowing. Photo: Region Media.

These volunteers are concerned that over-enthusiastic government-contracted mowers sometimes mow grasslands and conservation areas where they’ve actually been working to plant more native species.

Not only are the volunteers having their work undone, they say this kind of overzealous mowing can put animal and plant species at risk by spreading invasive weeds.

These concerns have been listened to by ACT Greens crossbencher Jo Clay who will next move a motion in the ACT Legislative Assembly calling for better protection of conservation areas.

Ms Clay said better communication, increased signage and community education would make a big difference.

She used Emu Creek behind Renny Place in Belconnen – which is looked after by Landcare volunteers – as an example of where this lack of communication had led to new plants being unintentionally mown over by government contractors.

“This not only kills the plants but can kill wildlife too. Grass clippings sometimes get sent into our waterways. Mowers can also spread weed seeds, further degrading our grasslands,” Ms Clay said.

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“My motion calls on the ACT Government to work more closely with its mowing contractors and to connect with our volunteer land carers to ensure our conservation areas are protected. It’s also about community conversations about the importance of Canberra’s grasslands and wildlife,” she said.

“As pressures on the environment increase, we need to make more [space] for wildlife in our urban areas, and we need to look after them.”

Ms Clay was clear that what she isn’t calling for a complete stop to mowing across Canberra entirely.

She said she’d already had a good discussion with Mr Steel and the pair had agreed there were areas in the Territory that needed more mowing, some which needed some care and others which could be left alone.

The motion will be moved in the Territory’s Legislative Assembly next week.

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Why do people tie themselves up in knots ?

If it’s a noxious weed, kill it with weed killer.

If it’s tall grass, it’s a snake/fite risk, mow it.

Tell the greens to grow a damn brain….

As a wildlife biologist and conservationist who has been a resident of Canberra for more than 50 years, there is very definitely a need for greater communication & coordination between responsible government agencies on the issue of when and where to mow around urban areas in the ACT. Balance is required between fuel reduction activities and conservation interests
I have personally witnessed nests and fledglings of ground nesting birds such as the spur-winged plover unintentionally destroyed each year by tractor-driven slashers.
Conservation of the restricted grasslands biome in the ACT requires practical management.
Much of Canberra’s grasslands are on marginal conservation value because they comprise introduced grasses when their primary purpose was agriculture. Conversion of these grasslands back to their natural state as suitable habitat for such endangered species as the grasslands earless dragon wil lrequire the judicious use of fire and controlled grazing.
The ACT Government must avoid any knee-jerk reaction that bans mowing and other seemingly destructive management actions in the mistaken belief that such prohibitions will benefit conservation of native grassland habitat and dependent species.

Where I live, there are large sections of land where there is an abundance of grass species supporting a diverse range of living species.
It’s an entire ecosystem full of airborne pollen & seed-producing grasses. It fills our lungs and nasal passages with the joy of spring. These grasslands provide shelter for countless creatures, protection from predators and nutrition to support their lifecycle; current and into their next generation.
Reckless mowing, could destroy this ecosystem. Grasshoppers, biting insects and small rodents numbers are at risk.
Thank you Ms Clay for your work to preserve this local environment and Mr Steele for your cooperation.

kenbehrens, what thought have you given to the species which eat grasshoppers, biting insects and small rodents?

Personally I have not considered a reason to exterminate

kenbehrens, what thought have you given to the species which eat grasshoppers, biting insects and small rodents?

Personally I have not considered hayfever a reason to exterminate verge grasses or even strictly limit their growth beyond safety reasons.

[there was an earlier inadvertent post before completion]

Phydux, a bit like leaving all the plastic waste in the Oceans right? Believe it or not plastic creates habitat for microorganisms, sea snails, jellyfish, etc.

Your idea about long grasses providing the environment for other creatures to eat the grasshoppers, biting insects and rodents reminds me of that little ditty about the old lady who swallowed a fly!
In the end, after swallowing larger and larger creatures, she swallowed a horse and was dead of course!

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