Auck­land’s over­grown parks

Coun­cil blames wet win­ter and spring as con­trac­tors strive to catch up on work

The New Zealand Herald - - FRONT PAGE - Bernard Ors­man Email news­desk@nzher­ald.co.nz

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

Pictures / Bernard Ors­man and (top) Doug Sher­ring

Jeff Hayward points to a smashed cen­tury-old lamp from Al­bert Park. At top, un­mown grass in the Cox’s Bay Re­serve in West­mere.

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