Overgrown grass is a problem across the ACT, but Crace locals say areas of their suburb have been neglected for years and are posing increased health and safety risks.
An extra rainy season in late 2021 saw grass growing wild across Canberra, as ACT Government city services struggled to keep up. Local sports grounds were put out of action and drivers struggled to see through the weeds at corners and roundabouts.
But residents of the northern Canberra suburb of Crace say long grass in the suburb has been a long-running, and creeping, issue.
Kevin Saliba moved to Crace in 2014. About three years later he noticed areas of once well-maintained green space were becoming overgrown.
He says the frequency of mowing has decreased and some areas are being left to grow wild.
“There’s a number of areas now that aren’t being mowed at all,” he says, “some have been abandoned recently, other areas have been abandoned for a number of years – well before any issue relating to staff shortages because of COVID or because the grass is just growing very well because of the heavy rain that we’ve had.”
He says it’s having a negative effect on the lifestyle and overall look of the suburb.
“It’s definitely different to how the suburb used to look when the plots were being sold and people started moving into the suburb,” he says.
The suburb’s lush green spaces had been a drawcard for residents, especially those who traded smaller backyards for access to public space.
“[Residents] elected to buy smaller blocks because there was a lot of green open space, a lot of playgrounds in the suburb,” Kevin says.
“Access to a lot of these areas has been restricted because the grass is just not being mowed.”
Kevin says the long grass is reducing play areas for kids and spaces to walk dogs, and restricting access to local reserves.
“ACT Government installed ladders allowing people to climb over the fences to go for walks in the reserve,” he says. “Some of them cannot be accessed anymore because the grass has not been mowed and allowed to grow so high.”
The long grass is even encroaching on a hilltop memorial for Edward Kendall Crace, after whom the suburb is named.
While strips of grass on either side of the path have been mowed recently, there’s a large patch that’s been left to grow.
“Immediately next to the memorial … there’s grass that’s over a metre high and it really doesn’t look very nice,” Kevin says.
It’s not just the look of the suburb that has locals concerned.
The long grass is attracting pests like snakes and spiders, and increasing fire risks.
Many houses, Kevin’s included, had to be built to incorporate bushfire safety measures but he fears now that might not be enough.
“It defeats the point if you’re going to allow the grass to grow so tall and bring it closer to the suburbs, that will increase the fire hazard,” he says.
When he started noticing the change around 2017, Kevin lodged numerous requests on the ACT’s Fix My Street site.
“Eventually they did agree to mow some of the areas, but not all of them, some of them have remained unmowed since then,” he says.
“A number of my neighbours have … called, they’ve lodged letters and, unfortunately, nothing has been done about it.”
He’s recently lodged more requests and has even started a petition calling for the government to address the issue.
But he’s not sure what else he can do.
“I think I’ll do small steps, I’ll take it to whoever I can at Access Canberra or the Fix My Street website and try to alert them to it,” he says.
“It’s not just a handful of people who are unhappy about this, there are almost 200 signatories on the petition.”
He says if there’s no satisfactory result, he’ll take it up with the minister if necessary.