Federal Politics


Wanted: gardener for The Lodge

Wanted: groundskeeper or gardener for maintenance of sensitive heritage property in Canberra’s south. Must have own tools and equipment, and pass criminal background and anti-terrorism checks.

Duties include lawn mowing, leaf blowing, fertilising, pruning and trimming and site preparation for visits by world leaders and royalty.

Australian government tender documents reveal a search is under way for groundskeepers to care for Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s official residences in Canberra and Sydney.

Applications have been called for management of 1.8 hectare property surrounding The Lodge in Deakin, as well as the gardens at Kirribilli House in Sydney.

The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet seeks experienced gardeners to maintain the grounds and gardens of the historic properties, as well as tool sheds, car ports and wood piles.

A 50-page document outlining the duties for The Lodge calls for applicants to be financially viable, and have a perfect record of compliance with gender equality and workplace safety regulations.


The applicant and any sub-contractors “must not be named on the list of persons and entities designated as terrorists”, the documents say.

Duties at The Lodge include ensuring lawns, gardens and paved areas are kept in a “visually neat and tidy condition, free from weeds and other infestations”.

This isn’t a job for just any green thumb, however.

Lawns must be mowed to approximately 75mm in length, with all edges trimmed and weeds removed at all times.

Special provisions are made for the property's outdoor pool and tennis court, both of which should be kept leaf free at all times. 

Leaves should be "skimmed" from the pool surface as often as twice daily. 

The successful applicant will be responsible for seasonal fertilising, pruning and trimming and maintaining a conservation plan for the extensive grounds.

Garden lights must be checked weekly and light globes replaced as necessary and the successful applicant will be invited to advise on improvements.

Other duties include keeping outdoor furniture in a clean condition, free of cobwebs, pests, insects, droppings and mildew.

The new groundskeeper must order and organise fire wood and set and light fireplaces as required.

They will also ensure Australia Federal Police guard boxes are maintained and keep the property free of any dead or unwanted animals.

While maintaining pathways and fences, successful applicants will also be required to use best practice horticultural and water saving strategies “to produce an attractive and inviting environment”.

Other tasks include ensuring gutters, gateways and entrances are kept clear.

"Please note that The Lodge has compost facilities for recycling of garden waste," the document says. 

Watering must be arranged so as to avoid creating slippery conditions on roads, paving stones and footpaths.

Any storm activity must be followed by inspection for fallen branches or other debris, and the prime ministerial tennis court must be regularly cleared of leaves.

"The service provider must provide all gardening equipment, including but not limited to lawn-mower, hedge-trimmer, brush-cutter, leaf-blower, personal protective equipment, garden tools and any computer equipment and amenities for use by their staff," the document says.

Last month, staff in Mr Abbott’s office were found to have blocked the release of information on the year-long restoration of the 1920s home, fearing "negative comments" about the $4.45 million project.

Mr Abbott followed his political mentor John Howard in becoming just the second Australian prime minister to make Kirribilli House on Sydney Harbour his primary residence instead of The Lodge.

He has opted to stay in a $110-a-night room at Australian Federal Police College in Barton when staying in Canberra while a year-long restoration project is completed.

Works to repair the slate roof, remove asbestos and replace electrical wiring and climate systems began in September, and were planned while former prime minister Julia Gillard was living at the Deakin home.

No anticipated cost of the new gardening contract has been published.

The grounds of Kirribilli House cover .46 hectares overlooking Sydney Harbour. Mr Abbott and his family moved into the historic home in March.

Expressions of interest for the two-stage process are due by June 16.