Winter has finally arrived but in the aftermath of an unusually warm and dry spring and autumn, we look at the impact on the work of different contracts.
In the more deciduous areas of the Cities of Whitehorse, Glen Eira and inner suburbs around the City of Yarra, leaves have been falling thick and fast for weeks, covering the streets with their rich autumn colours. Peter Gilbert, Business Unit Manager for Street Cleaning in those areas reports that the contract rosters on an extra truck for 3 months with a driver and labourer for 6 days a week. The dry spell has slowed things up a little, but as Peter puts it: “Nature. It’s inevitable.”
Out in Whittlesea Open Spaces the environment is much more arid. Whittlesea is the largest Open Space contract for Melbourne (bound by the Western Ring Road and the Plenty River and covering suburbs including Thomastown, Bundoora, Whittlesea and Epping) and one of the largest in Australia. The soil is drier, and there are far greater numbers of native trees and indigenous vegetation able to withstand the harsher conditions. Jon Kay, the team leader for Whittlesea Trees outlines however how the unusually dry Spring has affected the tree watering and planting programs: “Usually it’s slowing down in April, but as we were not able to rely on rain fall this year, we have greatly upped our watering schedule.” The team have been working towards preserving the semi mature and mature trees that have suffered under the stress. They are also planting trees later in the season.
Other teams in Whittlesea are focused on a maintenance program. Vandalism decreases in the parks as the weather gets colder and the barbeques are not used as much. Ky McKimmie the Infrastructure team leader reports that it is a good opportunity to proactively stain and paint the parks furniture and soft fall the sand paths.
The Whittlesea Horticulture team throughout autumn work towards, as Simon Potter the team leader describes: “mulching and beautifying the landscape.” They work with the changing seasonal conditions to present the parks as best they can and in preparation for the major planting program that takes place in winter. Simon reports the soil is still bone dry this year so as with the Trees team, the Horticulture team are undertaking a lot more watering.
Another key aspect of parks and gardens in the Whittlesea area is coupled with the dry conditions the sheer size of the area. Vegetation planted is predominantly native and less ornamental needing less attention and able to be self sustainable. Ryan Neale the IVM (Indigenous Vegetation Management) team specialist focuses on replanting native grasses and low growing plants. The parks have evolved as a result from being ornamental with classic features such as park benches, rubbish bins and swings to large open areas. Great tracts of wetland have been transformed into lineal parks that adjoin each other and are linked to areas closer to Melbourne by a myriad of bike paths. These create new recreational experiences and an appreciation of this unique and growing area in all seasons.