57 days ago

Parks maintenance around Invercargill

Jennifer from Central-West Invercargill

I have met quite a few people recently who have commented that Queen’s Park is nowhere near as well maintained as it used to be. I walk through there quite often and I can see what they mean. The flower beds and rose garden still look beautiful but the general grass is mowed less and debris resulting from strong winds is being left lying around. The grass around the trees that are away from the centre path is being left long and will soon be out of control. On the footpath adjacent to Waihopai School and the Queen’s Park motel, there are a number of tree roots coming up through the gravel and I have tripped over a root on more than one occasion. In my opinion, the park is beginning to look untidy where it used to be pristine.
To those who have noticed the state of Queen’s Park, I say go take a look around Otatara. In Sandy Point, mowing is sporadic, and walkways (access paths) in the wooded areas are hardly ever touched so that weeds like broom and lupin are taking over. The mountain bike club and the sled dog association do their bit on those paths that are not firebreaks, but maintenance of the main paths by the council is sadly lacking. Last year, we noticed that broom, foxglove, deadly nightshade and woody nightshade were rampant but we only saw one instance of weeds or paths being sprayed, after we complained about it. We have seen a spraying contractor working in Fosbender Park and the immediate surrounds in the last month but we haven’t noticed much of a result yet.
I also walked round the Waihopai Estuary walkway recently and along most of it, the grass at the sides is taking over. On the Bluff Road side, there are well-established tall plants of some flowering weed and on the approach to the carpark from the Bluff Road side, there are significant areas of thistles and deadly nightshade.
There is a section of wood in the mountain bike trails where the trees are old and prone to falling down in strong winds. It now seems to be up to us, the public, to tell the council that a tree is blocking a firebreak path. There is no warden to keep an eye on things like this.
Until recently, the Sandy Point toilets have not been at all clean, and despite the fact that the council said they were cleaned regularly, they were poorly done when compared to when the last permanent warden was operating. However, we have seen an improvement recently because someone who knows how to clean was given the job. We have known the rubbish bin at O’Rorke Park be left for more than three weeks without being emptied, and we know this because there was a broken umbrella in it.
The visitor information centre at Sandy Point is never open now, whereas it always used to be opened at weekends and public holidays. It’s shown on Council maps but it’s useless if it’s always closed. The warden’s cottage behind the visitor centre is empty and doing nothing. The council needs to remember that that both properties belong to us ratepayers.
We happen to know that the last permanent warden for Sandy Point left the job because Parks Operations would not let him have occasional weekends off. Now we are without a permanent warden for Sandy Point and now there is no warden at all available at weekends. A similar situation also happened for one of the wardens for Queen’s Park and both wardens left within a short time of each other. It makes us wonder what kind of attitude Parks management has to its employees when it took months to get replacement staff. Under the management that was in place in 2014, when we first moved here, the whole area was beautifully maintained. It’s gone downhill markedly since, so perhaps one would question the present management style.
Elsewhere in Otatara, there is a footpath from the school bus stop at Niven Road down Marama Avenue South. What footpath? Precisely. Half of it is overgrown with grass and the other half is barely walkable because of large bushes growing over it. Council made a half-hearted attempt to clear that section last year but it’s worse than ever this year. We walk along the road edge now as you are likely to slip over if you try to follow the path. Quite a number of school children walk that route twice a day so it is a significant safety issue.
While I have been in touch with the council over the past three years over issues with this footpath and the state of Sandy Point, the stock answer has been that they don’t have the staff. I would ask, why don’t they have the staff? They certainly used to have enough.
I have been living in Invercargill for five years now, and the population has increased markedly in that time. New houses are being built all over the place, which means there is more rates income for the council, plus all the income from building consents and inspections. Has the council deliberately got rid of staff and has not replaced them for reasons best known to themselves? If the council is crying that it’s short of money, where is that new money going? I suppose Christmas lights and the non-existent Chinese garden would have taken some, but where is the rest of it?
Jennifer Hoare, Otatara.

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