Monday, December 11, 2023

Concern over new park contract

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Mark Hanson says grass in Howick Botany ward parks will be allowed to grow as tall as a litre bottle of milk. Times photo Therese Henkin

The grass may not be greener, but it certainly will be longer in the Howick Botany ward parks and reserves.

Grass will be allowed to grow up to a maximum of 200mm tall, almost as high as a litre milk bottle, before it needs to be cut, and trees could go without pruning for as long as five years.

These are just two of the Key Performance Indicator (KPI) measures in Auckland Council’s latest parks maintenance contract for the Howick Botany ward.

The KPIs were released to East Tamaki Heights resident Mark Hanson, who says he was keen to find out if the council would hold the new contractor to account financially for failure to meet the KPI requirements.

The Botany local says it was “just a simple inquiry” that was treated as a Local Government Official Information Act (LGOIMA) request by Auckland Council.

The response said the grass on a neighbourhood park “should be no shorter than 50mm and no higher than 200mm” and the tree trimming allows for “a cyclic tree pruning rotation of five years for street trees.”

“That’s almost as tall as a litre bottle of milk and it’s too long. I think the council has been a bit of a soft touch on this on this maximum measure,” Hanson says.

The new contracts were given to Australian company Ventia and came into effect in July.

“Its early days, so yes let’s give them some time, but I don’t hold out much hope. All these contractors want to do is the bare minimum — and it’s our money, we’re paying for it.”

Simon Randall, the council’s Acting Head Of Operational Management And Maintenance says he is confident that Aucklander’s can expect to see expect better maintenance of their local parks under the new contracts.

“Our maintenance contracts, including for parks, are outcomes based now — this means they carry out the work as and when it’s needed rather than on a pre-set schedule,” he says.

The LGOIMA response said “The contracts have performance management mechanisms for failure to meet contract KPIs and a dedicated team that will monitor the outcomes and deliverables.

“Council retains the right to withhold up to 10 per cent of a monthly invoice for continuing, non-mitigated performance breaches.”

Mr Hanson said while ‘continuing non-mitigated breaches’ was fairly open, the council response is encouraging.

Howick local board member John Spiller says he has seen a significant deterioration in park maintenance in recent years and is looking forward to improved outcomes with the new providers.

“My view on mowing frequencies of parks and reserves is that this should be carried out to provide maximum enjoyment and access to these special places with an emphasis on frequency over the warmer months,” he says.

“It seems a wasteful practice to mow at set frequencies throughout the year when people are not using the parks nearly as much over late autumn, winter and early spring.

“The other disadvantage with winter mowing of undrained areas is that the tractors make a considerable mess which is both unsightly and dangerous.”

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