14 February 2024

Mow-tivated Warilla man takes grassroots approach to overgrowth

| Dione David
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Man using whipper snipper

Corey Barnes is a man on a mission … even if he shouldn’t technically be. Photo: Ben Spinelli Photography.

Warilla man Corey Barnes can’t help but notice when the grass becomes overgrown in public parks and on verges and median strips. Understandably for the owner of The Aussie Lawn Guy, it’s a bit of a bugbear.

Recently, he whipped out a couple of his favourite new toys – a Bushranger Power Equipment ride-on mower and a multitool with a line trimmer attached – and got to work mowing a couple of these areas himself.

“We’ve been watching our community spaces get away from our council operators in this extreme growing season, so we decided to give the council a hand and give back to our community,” he says.

“I’ve lived in the area for close to 15 years now, and every year, it’s the same thing. You don’t see this kind of overgrowth in places like Shell Cove and it feels like we get a bit left behind.”

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He didn’t get far, though. Corey soon found out the council has a schedule for maintaining each reserve across the city every four to six weeks, with higher public use areas mowed on a three-week schedule.

“But if the rain falls when that particular park or median strip is scheduled to be mowed, it gets pushed back. So that park in a low priority area can go 12 weeks without a mow,” he says.

“As we all know, we’ve had a lot of rain this summer, and some places around here are looking pretty shabby.

“I asked the council how to do it at a volunteer level, but it turns out regardless of my public liability insurance it would contravene the council’s workplace health and safety policies.”

Shellharbour City Council records indicate their schedule is being met, but acknowledge significant rainfall and humid and hot conditions has caused grass to grow quickly, and that mowing while wet can impact timing, machinery and the condition of the reserves.

“The community is encouraged to report any concerns of maintenance with specific sites to council for advice on timing for the next scheduled service; these schedules can also be viewed online,” a spokesperson said.

“Council currently supports volunteer groups to undertake bushland management activities. The use of power tools and large mowing equipment has higher risks to users of the reserve requiring council staff training and controls for public safety.

“Council understands the inconvenience the rapid grass growth may cause, but this higher risk work is not appropriate for volunteers.”

Two men stoop to work on overgrowth

Corey intends to find ways to continue using his skills to benefit his community. Photo: Ben Spinelli Photography.

Though his vigilante lawn mowing days might be over, Corey is keen to keep up the community service aspect.

“I enjoy serving my community and keeping the neighbourhood clean and tidy,” he says. “I’ll be on the hunt for charities or people in the community I can help get their lawns back in order.”

Having studied certificates in horticulture, The Aussie Lawn Guy does everything from quick and dirty paddock slashings to the meticulous care of high-quality manicured lawns, which can include feeding and insecticide programs, the addition of topsoil and renovating.

He says the grass in the Illawarra is growing like crazy at the moment.

“The drought-tolerant kikuyu and shade-tolerant buffalo are the most common lawn varieties I tend to find,” he says.

“At the moment I reckon they’re averaging 150 mm to 200 mm of growth per fortnight.”

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You might wonder how a bloke becomes passionate about lawn care.

Corey was a trained baker and pastry chef by trade, but wanted to start his own business. After spitballing ideas with his mates, he grew Aussie Lawn Guy from the ground up.

“I didn’t have a bunch of start-up cash, and I asked a few of my mates, ‘What can I start doing tomorrow without having to invest a lot?'” he says.

“I had a trimmer, a whipper snipper and a lawnmower. The work started coming from friends and through word of mouth it grew. It’s been going gangbusters since, so I guess you could say I just ended up here. I do enjoy what I do very much, even though it landed in my lap.”

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