More accountability, better open spaces

APPALLING: The scene on March 24 at Armoy Drive Reserve, where the grass surrounding local resident Mark Hanson had grown to a whopping 70 centimetres tall. Times photo Laura Brookes.

A move from Auckland Council to hold maintenance contractors more accountable in new contracts has been well-received well by local resident Mark Hanson, who is calling for contractors to improve their performance in maintaining parks and open spaces.

Auckland Council manages more than 5000 sites across the region, and existing council maintenance contracts for these, including parks, buildings and open space, are due to expire on June 30.

New contracts are due to take effect on July 1.

Under the new contracts, “an improved approach” to maintenance services will be adopted, with the aim of delivering more services without compromising quality and encouraging accountability, ensuring that parks, reserves and roadsides within Auckland are maintained and developed to provide a sustainable, safe, clean and healthy environment.

That’s not what has happened up until now, said Mr Hanson, who is an avid jogger around the east Auckland area, and is frequently met with disappointment at the unsightly state of local parks.

On March 24, he visited Armoy Drive Reserve where the calf-high grass had clearly not been mown for a significant period of time.

The tallest spikes measured at a whopping 70 centimetres, while the bulk of the grass measured between the 20 and 30 centimetre mark.

“It’s a disgrace. I’ve got American friends who come over to visit, and I’d be embarrassed to bring them here.

“We’re [currently] dealing with a council contract which doesn’t have sufficient integrity of management. What I want to know is why they have let it get to this stage.

“Would you want to be playing with a three-year-old in this?”

In an email to local board members with a video attachment, Mr Hanson highlighted the unsatisfactory condition of Armoy Drive Reserve and urged members to visit the site.

“I would strongly urge you to visit this reserve to see first-hand the terrible condition it is in,” he wrote.

“It’s appalling. You really have to walk amongst it yourself to see the degradation and totally unsatisfactory this once well-kept reserve has become.”

It’s a similar situation to what he’s seen at Gracechurch and Point View reserves, said Mr Hanson.

“Sadly, it’s not the only reserve or open space that is badly in need of the contractor’s attention in the Ward.”

Auckland Council’s general manager of community facilities, Rod Sheridan, told the Times the council has high expectations for its contractors to deliver the best possible service to Aucklanders.

“Our staff are looking into the concerns about grass and trees in Armoy Drive Reserve and we encourage anyone with concerns about maintenance of the local community facilities to call the council’s contact centre on 09 301 0101.

“Following a thorough procurement process, the council has identified maintenance contractors that can provide value for money and better local services for Aucklanders. From 1 July these contractors will be subject to performance measures that are linked to financial consequences. They will also be subject to stronger auditing and reporting, and will have dedicated council staff overseeing contract delivery.”

The Times contacted Howick Local Board chairperson David Collings regarding the issue but did not receive a response.