14 September 2021

Cue the hay fever as lawn mowing season starts up in the ACT

| James Coleman
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Slow down near mowing operations.

Slow down near mowing operations. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

“Spring is in the air” is really just another way of saying “hay fever” is in the air.

Canberra’s bumper pollen season is about to get worse as the ACT Government rips the dust covers off the lawnmower fleet and revs them into action for a bumper grass season.

ACT Minister for Transport and City Services Chris Steel said even a pandemic won’t stop the big spring growth we are expecting this year after a very wet winter.

“Getting mowing underway is an essential service priority,” Minister Steel said.

The crews will be working over the next few weeks to mow priority areas across the city, including around roadside intersections where long growth can quickly turn into a dangerous visibility issue for drivers.

“We will also be mowing the irrigated parks around town at staggered times and ACT Government sportsgrounds, which are seeing extra traffic at the moment with more Canberrans doing individual exercise outside.”

Once the lockdown period ends, the ACT Government will take a staged approach to ramping up normal mowing operations as more teams return to work.

Gino Giucci, widely known as the ‘Canberra Mowing King’. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

The ACT’s annual mowing program normally runs from September to March. Suburbs and areas of open space are mown every four weeks with arterial road areas mown every five weeks.

There are 73 mowers in the fleet with each mower covering an area of 68 hectares every four weeks.

“After a wet winter when more than 215 millimetres of rain was recorded at the Canberra Airport and above average rainfall forecast during spring, we’re expecting to see grass grow quickly when the warmer weather returns,” Minister Steel said.

READ ALSO High pollen season is nothing to sneeze at in Australia’s ‘allergy capital’

The consistent spread of rain over the last three months has caused headaches across the board.

Canberra has the highest rate of hay fever of any city in Australia, with one in three people in the capital suffering from some form of allergic rhinitis. We have had two extreme pollen events already and experts say the way is paved for a congested spring.

Meanwhile, the rain has also been seeping through cracks in road surfaces across the ACT, eroding the base pavement and forming potholes.

In the last financial year, pothole repairs tripled from 2,719 in a much drier 2019-20 to 6,375.

Rye grass with landscape of Canberra in background.

Rye grass is often blamed for Canberra’s extreme levels of pollen. Photo: Canberra Pollen Twitter.

Last year was a similar situation, with high rainfall forcing the ACT Government to spend $6 million on “surge capacity” staffing to handle the influx of grass and pothole growth. Staff were on the clock for up to 12 hours a day to get on top of it.

Minister Steel is asking for the community’s understanding and patience as crews work to mow priority areas across the city while also complying with current health directions.

All mowers have had a pre-season mechanical service and safety compliance check completed. This included testing of the GPS systems that are used to capture data on which areas have been mown.

When the mowing program is in full operation after lockdown, this information will be used to populate a live mowing map that will show where crews have been and where they are intending to mow in the coming weeks.

The mowing map and more information on the ACT Government mowing program can be found on the City Services website.

Original Article published by James Coleman on The RiotACT.

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