15 December 2021

Mow money, mow problems: mowing up almost 50 per cent in wet and rainy year

| Lottie Twyford
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Man mowing grass

Gino Giucci on the mowing job – the busiest it’s been for some time, thanks to wet weather. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

During the 2020-21 financial year, the ACT Government increased its mowing of public lands by 43 per cent, Transport Canberra and City Services’ annual report has shown.

The government mowed just over 42,000 hectares of public land in the reporting period – an increase from the previous financial year (2019-20) in which just over 29,000 hectares of land was mown.

The report noted that the La Niña event of 2020 had thrown a spanner in the works.

“The annual grass mowing program normally runs from September to March. In 2020 a La Nina climate event resulted in a significant increase in rainfall and rapid grass growth,” the report read.

“In Spring 2020 it had become evident that mowing suburbs every four weeks would be extremely challenging.”

READ ALSO Is it time we took mowing into our own hands?

An additional $2.1 million of funding was plunged into the mowing program in November last year. This led to the creation of 24 new staff positions for 12 months and allowed for nine additional mowers to be hired.

Additional contracted resources were also allocated to the mowing. That funding was drawn from the government’s COVID-19 support package.

The mowing program will now continue to be reviewed throughout 2021-22, the report read.

Last month the Bureau of Meteorology declared a La Niña event, and November 2021 was the wettest November ever in the ACT – a total of 852.2 millimetres of rain were measured at Canberra Airport.

READ ALSO Mowing schedule woes continue amid long grass, rain … and goats?

This recently led the Opposition to call on the ACT Government to update its mowing schedule in response to weather patterns and increased funding.

They’ve said more resources, surge funding and a better long-term strategy to get the mowing done is what’s needed.

Canberra Liberals MLA Jeremy Hanson seized on the mowing issue to say the government is no longer focused on the suburbs, nor on the things that matter the most to Canberrans.

The ACT Government instead noted the record rainfall, saying this was the reason behind mowing schedule delays of up to two weeks.

Minister for City Services Chris Steel said the government simply could not control the rain.

“Even with the best-laid plans, you can’t mow a lawn when it’s wet,” he said. “It damages the equipment and it’s a safety issue.”

READ ALSO Two years after the Black Summer bushfires, time-lapse video captures remarkable regrowth of our forests

Mr Steel did note that additional funding would be considered and could be drawn upon if required.

“We will continue to monitor the weather patterns that we are facing and, if it looks like additional surge funding may be needed, of course, we will consider that, just as we delivered during the last mowing season as well,” he told the Assembly.

He also described the delays of only two weeks as “pretty good when you consider the combined impact of the La Niña weather conditions and of the COVID-19 lockdown”.

Yet many Canberrans have decided it’s time to take the mowing matters into their own hands instead. ACT residents are expected to maintain their own verges, but some have taken to mowing community parks, nature strips and roundabouts.

An ACT Government spokesperson said this is appreciated but encouraged people to be safe and keep an eye out for potential hazards.

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There are the flat areas where it doesn’t make sense for people to use domestic mowers that the big machine can much quicker. But there are also many areas which a big machine can’t get into and have become weed infested. These area need hand held machines or spraying.

We need a landcare or community care program to address these.

But, if you happen to have a sickle, scythe or battery powered cutter spend a little bit of time cutting the flowering heads off the weeds in areas near you and at least help suppress the further expansion of the Scotch Thistles and Patersons Curse etc.

Or alternatively, just whinge about it.

Well they need to create crews of mowers and public space maintenance people who just look after discrete areas. The problem is they do nothing to kill the weeds and just do it as quickly as possible that just spreads the weeds around and makes the job harder as they grow back quicker.

Most of the overgrown areas on my street in Weston Creek are private front lawns and their nature strips. The government land is mowed regularly.

Same in Bonner, unpopular opinion fines to those who do not upkeep their own median strips. A lot of the time you can’t use public walk ways because of unkept areas. And it brings down the whole suburb.

It’s amazing how many people in the ACT don’t realise (or care) they are responsible for the nature strip.

Near where I live a house regularly mows their front lawn but the nature strip has two foot high grass. How they can live with that is beyond me.

And beyond that same where I live the worst areas are ones that are the responsibility of households.

There are areas that need mowing. And there are areas that people are used to mowing, but do not need mowing. The area in the photo in the article probably does not need mowing, except for a few meters next to the road and path. The rest could be planted with trees and shrubs and over a few years become wonderful habitat: supporting wildlife, sequestering carbon, costing a lot less and without the CO2 emissions that come from mowing. There are many many such areas around Canberra. The landcare project I am associated with has a substantial area that was previously mown which is now no-mow with all the benefits, including a wonderful flourishing of native grasses.

“The area in the photo in the article probably does not need mowing except for a few metres next to the road and path The rest could be planted with trees and shrubs and over a few years become wonderful habitat: supporting wildlife, sequestering carbon…”
The photo you are referring to is clearly staged. The deciduous trees are in flower, so it’s likely to be late August and not representative of our current uncut grass.
As far as your thoughts of planting out areas like this to create a wonderful habitat supporting wildlife and to absorb carbon, personally, I prefer to have a clear view of my surroundings, when driving. The warm and fuzzies of carbon sequestering wildlife habitats adjacent to our roadway turns rather ugly when a furry creature bounds from the wooded area and collides with mum taking the kids to preschool.

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