Spokesperson, Gabrielle Radinger, among the current planting. Photo: Graham Tidy
Landscapers will descend on Green Square on Tuesday, removing the much-maligned spiky natives and ending a ''nightmare'' battle for local businesses that have fought for years to get their grass back.
The 8am scheduled work signals a win for Kingston traders in their attempt to recapture Green Square's formerly family-friendly feel.
But the deal was almost scuttled this week by Territory and Municipal Services bureaucrats attempting to bill traders for watering and maintenance once grass was planted.
Intervention by Territory and Municipal Services Minister Shane Rattenbury on Thursday will see the government assume these costs - as it does for other public green spaces such as The Lawns in Manuka.
Kingston property owner Pawl Cubbin agreed to personally fund up to $20,000 to replant the grass - removed by the government in 2010 - following two years of fruitless negotiating with TAMS to beautify the square. He also agreed to repair and upgrade the watering system - despite this being a government asset.
Last year when Mr Cubbin made his offer, TAMS advised the government not to accept the deal.
The advice was overruled by Chief Minister Katy Gallagher at the same time as a petition with 900 signatures was tabled by the opposition in the Legislative Assembly calling for the grass to be replanted.
But the deal was almost scuttled in December when TAMS presented traders with a memorandum of understanding that called on them to pay for $20 million in public liability insurance and provide two $20,000 10-year bonds for damage to the grass, in addition to all the other costs associated with the planting.
Mr Cubbin refused to sign, describing it as ''bureaucracy gone mad''.
Mr Rattenbury intervened and the memorandum was pulled in favour of a less formal agreement that was presented to traders late last week.
But TAMS then asked traders to pay for ongoing water and maintenance costs. When traders asked for an estimate of those costs, they were given four figures ranging from $4000 to $12,000.
Mr Cubbin said he did not have faith in TAMS and would not enter into a long-term agreement with the directorate. He also said it was unacceptable that Kingston businesses would be expected to assume the costs of watering - when TAMS maintained all other public green spaces.
He described the last two years as ''a nightmare'' and it was only the personal intervention of Mr Rattenbury for a second time that saw the deal finally go through this week.
''So I now have permission to spend up to $20,000 of my own money restoring government-owned land,'' Mr Cubbin said.
''This has been such an exhausting and frustrating experience that I am not prepared to have anything more to do with TAMS,'' he said.
He is paying between $17,000 and $20,000 for the landscaping, which will take about 10 days to complete. It will need a month before it is usable.
Green Square jeweller Gabby Radinger said she had been shocked by her dealings with TAMS and said no small business could ''survive in business if they operated like that''.
She said she had been amazed to see four different quotes for grass watering and maintenance. ''Every time we tried to speak to someone, we got a different story and a different figure,'' she said.
Ms Radinger said she had fought for grass for so long, she would not believe it was being planted until she saw rolls of turf being laid out in the square.
The turf itself has been donated by Canturf.
Mr Rattenbury said he was delighted the deal had been reached and it was ''a really good outcome for Kingston''.
''I really appreciate the generosity of the traders and this is an interesting new way for government and concerned residents or businesses to work together to get a good outcome.
''They donate the grass and TAMS will pick up the costs for looking after it.''
Mr Rattenbury said he had faith in TAMS although ''perhaps it has taken a bit longer than it should have''.
''TAMS staff came to this with the right intent and we now have a precedent for the future.''
Mr Rattenbury did, however, concede that any similar agreements between government and stakeholders in the future may ''run a bit smoother'' as a result of lessons learnt from this experience.