Grass verges: Safety not compromised, says DCC

Safety will not be compromised by the Dunedin City Council’s revised approach to mowing grass verges in some areas amid budget constraints, a senior manager says.

The council has pushed out the frequency of roadside mowing in places and, in others, verges are being cut around the edges only.

This prompted community comment about increased fire risk, but council climate and city growth general manager Scott MacLean said the situation was being managed responsibly, and this included managing transport budgets.

"Where it doesn’t compromise safety, we will do what we can to control those costs," he said.

This tended to affect "low accessibility" areas.

Roslyn residents (from left) Robyn Austin, Bernice Hutchison and Ngaire Sutherland survey a long...
Roslyn residents (from left) Robyn Austin, Bernice Hutchison and Ngaire Sutherland survey a long strip of grass which the Dunedin City Council appears to have stopped mowing. PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY
Mr MacLean said contractors continued to do a good job.

The council’s transport operating expenditure had an unfavourable variance of just over $2 million for the first six months of the 2023-24 financial year.

This was affected by a high volume of work in July and August on culverts, kerb and channels and mud tanks; windy weather in August and September leading to additional tree removal and slip cleanup work; and emergency slip repairs carried out this financial year.

Mr MacLean said the council had to respond quickly to safety problems, such as slips, and it would continue to invest in renewal of roads and footpaths and managing roadside vegetation.

"Lowering the frequency of verge mowing helps us offset the cost," he said.

The council was keeping a keen eye on costs, overall, and looking to be nimble, he said.

Mr MacLean described feedback as broadly positive.

The council is soon to consider budgets for its 2024-25 annual plan and it will later need to consider service levels for its 2025-34 long-term plan.

"As we develop the nine-year plan, we’ll look at our approach to roadside mowing," Mr MacLean said.

The council said in a social media post a "broader conversation" with the community would be needed for the nine-year plan.

It was striving to deliver safety and amenity in an affordable way, including by adjusting the mowing schedule.

"This saves money by reducing unnecessary mowing, but it’s also great for our friends the bees and all the other pollinating critters out there."