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Long weekend of wet weather for Canberra

Date

Hamish Boland-Rudder, Sally Pryor

People planning on celebrating Australia Day outdoors in Canberra this year may need to make alternative plans.

People planning on celebrating Australia Day outdoors in Canberra this year may need to make alternative plans. Photo: Rob Gunstone

Those planning on celebrating outdoors over the Australia Day long weekend might need to make alternative plans, according to the Bureau of Meteorology's Magda Galos-Lorenc.

The Canberra forecaster said Saturday afternoon would bring widespread rainfall to the capital, which would increase on Sunday.

“It looks like Sunday will probably be the worst for precipitation," Ms Galos-Lorenc said.

A low-pressure trough moving in from the south-west is forecast to bring up to 20mm of rain to the ACT over the weekend, with more rain likely to come on Monday and Tuesday.

While the wet might put a dampener on some long weekend party plans, it will come as a welcome relief to keen gardeners in the capital after a month of hot, dry conditions. So far at Canberra Airport there has been only 10.2 millimetres of rain in January - compared with the monthly mean of 58.5 millimetres.

The relative dry after two wet summers has prompted Territory and Municipal Services Minister Shane Rattenbury to issue a call for help to the community, asking for volunteers to help water recently planted trees and shrubs along the Molonglo River below Scrivener Dam.

“The hot weather Canberra has been experiencing means trees and shrubs in the Scrivener Dam area are in need of a drink,” Mr Rattenbury said.

Volunteers will be asked to help cart buckets of water from the river to water more than 4500 trees on February 3, work that Mr Rattenbury describes as "labour intensive".

"We need as many hands on deck as possible, as we will be filling buckets from the river and transferring this water to the plants, which is not an easy job," Mr Rattenbury said.

“Everyone who participates will leave knowing that they have done something good for the environment and their community by ensuring the grasses, trees and shrubs in the area can continue to thrive.”

A spokeswoman for Mr Rattenbury said the event would be cancelled should there be significant rainfall. Volunteers hoping to participate should register by email.

Over at the National Arboretum Canberra, which is due to officially open next week, horticultural manager Adam Burgess said the hot weather, while uncomfortable, was a chance to see the many tree species strut their stuff.

“We've had all the seasons, we've been through horrible droughts, the flooding, extreme cold last year, and now we've got these heatwaves, so a lot of the trees are defoliating and thinning out,” he said.

“Personally I see that as a healthy response, because the trees are actually realising that conditions are quite ordinary, and we're going to start thinning out to use the appropriate amount of water.”

He said that apart from the aesthetics of thinning trees, he didn't see the heat, or any other extreme weather, as a problem for the arboretum.

“Everyone's going to have an opinion and be worried, but I'm glad if people are worried because it means they're caring,” he said.

“I kind of do expect at this time of year for it to be quite tired and worn out, and as the forests mature, every year it's going to improve. Eventually each forest is going to change the microclimates incredibly.

“It's real data for Canberra, because we really do get a lot of seasonal changes.”

The Arboretum is due to open on Friday, February 1 at dawn.

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