Auckland’s overgrown parks
Council blames wet winter and spring as contractors strive to catch up on work
Contractors are furiously mowing parks across Auckland after an exceptionally wet winter and a string of complaints to Auckland Council about untidy long grass.
Council community facilities manager Rod Sheridan says it may take at least two mowing cycles before parks are restored to an acceptable standard.
Scores of complaints have been made to the council and, in one case, Orakei Local Board members have gone out and reviewed 121 parks and reserves in the eastern suburbs where they found 75 per cent in a substandard condition.
“It is not a good look,” said local board member Kit Parkinson.
Howick councillor Dick Quax said that in his 27 years in Pakuranga he had never seen such poor mainten- ance at two parks near his home.
“This is a reputational issue for council,” Quax said.
Pakuranga resident Jay Venables said the grass in a small reserve at the end of her street was so long her grandchildren could not play there.
“I couldn’t tell you when it was last cut. It’s just awful,” she said.
It is not only long grass stirring complaints. The Orakei review turned up broken glass, rusty corrugated iron, rubbish and graffiti.
City resident Jeff Hayward says once-picturesque Albert Park has turned into a neglected mess of tree debris, sodden leaves and rubbish.
“My rates keep going up and the deterioration of this park is shocking,” says the filmmaker, who pointed to a century-old lamp smashed and left hanging near a busy path.
He says the park is littered with empty cans of cheap alcohol every morning from vagrants, who congregate there at night and have set up camp in the band rotunda. The marble steps leading up to the park from the Auckland Art Gallery used to glisten, he says. Now they are filthy.
Many of the complaints relate to an area of Auckland managed by Ventia, an Australian company that won a five-year, $266 million maintenance services contract from July.
When a number of new maintenance contracts were awarded in April, the council promised “enhanced outcomes and better value for money”.
Sheridan said the exceptionally wet winter and wet and early spring had caused contractors the most problems and made it difficult to mow with a high risk of machinery causing ruts and damage to parks.
“Holding off mowing to wait for the grounds to dry out has led to the backlog of work which we’re catching up on. We are working with our contractors to ensure that our parks meet the expectations of our communities. Now that the weather is improving, contractors are working to mow all parks as quickly as possible.
“However, it is possible that it will take at least two mowing cycles — approximately four weeks — until grounds are returned to an acceptable standard.
“Over the next two weeks, residents will see an improvement at affected parks with mowing on the dry portions of the parks, edging, garden maintenance. While this occurs, residents unfortunately may still witness some parks with longer grass or inconsistent mowing.”
Sheridan accepted the maintenance of Albert Park was not up to standard and said he was working closely with Ventia to resolve the issues.
The council is working to a plan to upgrade the park, which includes CCTV cameras, better lighting and paths and repairing the band rotunda and caretaker’s cottage.
My rates keep going up and the deterioration of [Albert] Park is shocking. Jeff Hayward
Jeff Hayward points to a smashed century-old lamp from Albert Park. At top, unmown grass in the Cox’s Bay Reserve in Westmere.