8 December 2021

Is it time we took mowing into our own hands?

| Lottie Twyford
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Grass at the Barton Highway/Gold Creek intersection

Have you been tempted to take the mowing matters into your own hands yet? Photo: John Miller.

There’s grass, grass, everywhere and not a mower in sight, at least according to the many Canberrans who detailed their own mowing woes after a recent story about the state of the grass in the ACT.

But while it’s no secret there has been an awful lot of rain this year, to which the ACT Government is attributing its current delays, there are many of you out there who said you simply took matters into your own hands.

Whether a high-tech ride-on or not, there are several local heroes getting out and about and mowing not only their grass but the community’s, too.

In Dunlop, you may have seen local resident Allan, who’s been spotted out and about mowing several streets to keep things looking tidy.

Others, such as Jon, are keen to take matters into their own hands and think a community-organised grass-roots (literally) mowing group would be a good idea.

Some turned to Facebook to offer their trusted tools, like Slade Minson, whose little mower ‘Rover’ may not be a fancy ride-on but proved it was still able to get the job done in the suburbs.

The little-mower-that-could was purchased for only $40 on Marketplace.


The trusty Rover on his mission. Photo: Slade Minson.

Initially, Slade posted on Facebook to – in his own words – “have a bit of a rant about the state of things like mowing and potholes”. But the response he got wasn’t entirely positive.

That’s because along with people agreeing with him, some Canberrans reminded him that he could get out and do something about it.

So, along came Rover.

While Slade said he won’t be taking over the mowing job entirely, he did a couple of patches around his house, and ended up helping out a household in his neighbourhood where none of the residents was physically able to tackle their own mowing in the back garden.

“I’ve been wanting to get out and do a bit more in the community for a while now,” Slade said. “This seemed like a good way to do it.”

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In the ACT, the only public land residents are expected to mow is their verge – the strip of land between the residential property boundary and the adjacent roadway.

An ACT Government spokesperson said while community support in mowing public areas other than verges is appreciated, it is not expected.

“Safety is important and accidents can occur. We are required to do a thorough assessment of the proposed site ahead of any works,” the spokesperson said.

“The ACT Government’s mowers are equipped with guards, cut-off switches and staff are trained to deal with various safety scenarios.”

According to the ACT Government, staying on top of the mowing remains one of their top priorities.

The government also regularly updates its mowing map to show where crews have recently mowed and where they are planning to mow in the coming weeks.

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The government spokesperson said all suburban areas have been cut at least once this season. Most areas are now receiving a second cut, and “crews are working hard to keep up with rapid growth as we move into summer”.

But, as Minister for City Services Chris Steel put it, “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.”

The Opposition has refuted these claims. They say what’s needed is more resourcing, surge funding and a better long-term strategy to get the mowing done.

Canberra Liberals MLA Jeremy Hanson said Canberrans are understandably frustrated with a government that’s “lost touch with the ordinary Canberran” and simply “got its priorities wrong”.

Is there a local mowing hero keeping on top of the grass in your neighbourhood? Contact us with your stories and photos.

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Why this obsession with using a fossil – fueled machine to chop down insect and animal habitat?

Hi again. Much the same comment as last time. Mowing is needed in some places. However much of the mowing done in the ACT is not needed. The Emu Ck landcare area now has .5 hectare that was mown 2 years ago, but is not mown now. Locals walking past often comment on how this is enhancing wildlife, on the attractiveness of the native grasses and other plants. There are many treed areas which do not need mowing – rather let native grasses and other plants regenerate. There are many other areas little frequented by people which could be planted with trees and shrubs, so that in a few years there would be no need for mowing. Many median strips, for example. The money saved could be used to pay for better maintenance of the eroding tracks in bush areas or for weed removal.

Capital Retro7:10 am 09 Dec 21

“It’s been raining more than ever” someone said.

No it hasn’t.

And the grass is not growing at “unprecedented” rates, either.

ChrisinTurner11:26 pm 08 Dec 21

Every Spring the grass-growing season catches our ACT government by surprise.

Actually it doesn’t.

Like many things (road maintenance for example) peoples expectations are beyond what if practicable to deliver effectively.

And there is far more awareness of this kind of issue due to forums like this where every man and his dog can and does voice a view.

Capital Retro9:40 pm 08 Dec 21

There is help on the way being the rabbits breeding up all over Canberra, especially on City Hill.


The rainfall issue is a complete and utter furphy.
Over the 122 days from 1 August to 30 November, Canberra received more than 2mm of rainfall on 31 days – representing 25.4% of days in the period. The long-term average number of rainy days for that period is 34. So, the number of rainy days in the months August to November was 3 lower than the long-term average.
Of the 31 rainy days between 1 August and 30 November, 24 of them were business days, when mowing would ordinarily occur. However, there were 62 non-rainy business days in the period for mowing to be carried out. Given the long-term average number of rainy days is 34 and business days would, on the law of averages represent 5/7 of those 34 (24), that is bang on average.
So, while Canberra has received 150mm more rainfall than normal in the period 1 August to 30 November, the rainfall in August and October was pretty much close to average, the number of rainy days was actually lower than the long-term average, and the number of dry business days to allow for mowing was right on average, so there should not be a problem in terms of mowing.
Based on the above figures, therefore, it cannot be credibly claimed excessive rainfall is to blame for Canberra’s current, embarrassing grass debacle.
So, what is the cause? Is the cause a lack of resourcing/staff? Is it a lack of mowers or mower servicing? Is it a pay dispute?? Is it just plain incompetence???
The national capital should look much better. Canberra’s population is highly articulate and pay much higher rates than most – they deserve much better and deserve to be respectfully told the truth, not fed some insincere and incorrect guff about high rainfall.

Capital Retro7:02 am 09 Dec 21

Great analysis, BM but already it’s too late because some people are using the “unprecedented” word for the rainfall word as an excuse.

The situation is totally the fault of the government but let’s not abandon all hope because the elitists’ playground / money-pit AKA The Arboretum is always looking spick and span.

On a more sombre note wasn’t is Mussolini that said “we will get the trains to run on time” and looked what happened to him? Barr can’t even get the grass cut so his days in politics are also numbered.

Andrew Sutton7:03 pm 08 Dec 21

This government has neglected our once beautiful city, not only with the lack of mowing but the complete lack of interest in combatting the weed situation in our reserves. Mount Ainslie and Mount Pleasant are being over run by St John’s Wort, Patterson’s Curse, thistles etc etc. I just dismay at what are the priorities of our supposed representatives!

Why can’t the council concrete or look at more sustainable ideas for median strips and public walkways then you wouldn’t have such large areas that need constant mowing. Look at how suburbs like Forde are set up compared to Bonner Mabo Blvd you can’t even cross the road the way it’s been set up and the way it dips.

I’m guessing none of the current ACT Liberals have ever touched a mower in their life, and know nothing about how the weather influences grass growth and mowing.

My neighbouring park was mowed about a week ago. Already, the grass in some places is well over ankle height again. I feel for the mowing team at the moment, it must seem like trying to hold back an avalanche.

So what you’re saying is that the government is unable to plan for perfectly predictable events like more grass growing in the summer of a wet year?

Actually, scratch that question. Sounds perfectly true to form.

I’m sure they can plan. I am also sure that plan doesn’t meet peoples expectations. Issue isn’t just grass growing quicker but so many rainy days preventing the workers from getting out. Not easy to temporarily increase the mower fleet to make up for lost time, which of course means the schedule suffers.

Would be interesting to hear what your backup plan would be?

They should be honest that this is an active choice of government because they don’t want to spend the money to:
a)hire the surge workforce/contractors required for the summer months
b)buy or hire the additional machinery that would be required and only used during that time.

The excuses around unexpected rain or weather is just a completely fabricated story to not admit the truth. The season we are having was entirely predicted and not remotely out of the ordinary.

However, they know come February everyone will have forgotten the issue and be whinging about something else.

For all those who do want to help out, please consider talking to your neighbours that have over grown yards to find out if they are physically capable or mowing or even if they have a lawn mower. I know of many people through my job who don’t have a lawn mower and are unable to afford to hire someone to cut the grass.

I think all the ACT Government maintenance people are still working from home… over 4 months ago I reported some severe damage to shared paths which is causing a safety hazard to path users – the status of the “Fix my street” report is currently “unassigned”.

Interestingly, these are areas of paths that have been totally destroyed by ACT Government contractors driving heavy vehicles on a surface built for 100kg of bike and rider (not for 20t+ of truck and crew) – so much for encouraging active travel!

People just don’t care anymore. Forget about the long grass on public land, have a look at the naturestrips out the front of people’s homes. Take a walk around the new suburb of Throsby (not picking on them in particular). New million dollar houses built beautifully but spoilt by the knee high weeds they have growing out the front on their naturestrip. Their gardens are full of weeds as well.

I remember the 80’s and 90’s when the home owner took pride in how his home was presented. You mowed the naturestrip and took care of the weeds and the nicer suburbs were just that, nice looking. Now ughh. They must spend all their money on building the house and have nothing left to spend on maintenance to make look nice. Even the fake grass at some of these homes, they went for the cheapest looking plastic and installed it themselves (very poorly).

It’s the same where I live in Harrison. The difference is, I mow my naturestrip and the adjoining house’s naturestrips and spray everyone’s weeds including in the back laneway. That way my place looks nice and not spoilt by my neighbours.

I said the same to my wife the other day. We were driving along Temperly Street in Nicholls and were blown away by how poorly kept many of the yards and gardens were in an area where once there were impeccable houses and gardens.

Though the Harcourt Hill portion of Nicholls was significantly better. I wonder if there are some covenants in that area that encourages people to keep their yards maintained better?

Utilise the the many idle hands at the Alexander Maconochie Centre by making the prisoners mow the grass around Canberra. Unless, of course, it’s a breach of their human rights…

They do, but they only do elderly and disabled peoples residences. They only use crooks who are doing community service. There’s a few people in there that you don’t want out the front of your place.

Capital Retro11:31 am 08 Dec 21

A lot of them are serving sentences for “growing” grass.

Capital Retro, I snorted when I read your comment.

Two words – Chain Gangs

Capital Retro3:52 pm 08 Dec 21

That will be legal also, soon.

Capital Retro10:20 am 08 Dec 21

There are personal liability insurance issues too. Lawnmowers have a habit of hurling stones and these break windows, damage cars and people.

It’s simply not worth the risk to do it yourself.

Community Spirit right there CR….. how about we change litigation rights, set ground rules (like home builders requirements etc) and manage the growing issues instead of “it’s not my problem” or” it’s not worth it”….. admiring a problem is just that, admiring. Be a part of the solution or move aside and let others do it…….

Ken Behren CR is correct the legal issue if something were to happen would be so not worth the trouble. you want to change legislation so that they cant sue over a broken window hahaha good luck with that it would take years to get passed and by then this issue would be long gone.

Capital Retro11:30 am 08 Dec 21

You need to get real KB. There are more lawyers in Canberra than lawnmowing contractors. “Community Spirit” is the first thing to be cast aside in a personal liability case.

For the record, I used to clean up rubbish left on the streets and shared paths in my ‘hood until a mob of lycra clad cyclists made unflattering remarks about me. In retrospect I should have left the broken glass on the paths that they traversed.

CR – you made your point many months ago – and I quote:

Capital Retro 10:34 am 09 Sep 21…….. We have turned into a politically divided nation of wimps with too much dependence on welfare.

Hello Ken,
It might seem community spirited to get your own mower out and cleanup the long grass, but you do so at your own personal and financial risk.

Get injured, the Government won’t cover you. Injure someone else of their property: the liability will be yours.
CR is spot on when it comes to personal liability.

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