Auckland Council has withheld payments to two contractors who failed to meet the standards for maintaining the city's parks and public buildings.
One of the contractors, Ventia, which hit the headlines last winter over a string of complaints about grass not being mowed and clippings not being collected, has had the money released after improving its services.
The other company, Urban Maintenance Systems (UMS), copped a 10 per cent penalty for last December's invoice after concerns with its health and safety processes.
Although no serious injuries were reported and UMS have resolved the issues, the council's general manager of community facilities, Rod Sheridan, said health and safety is not negotiable.
He said the health and safety issue had not affected UMS's work in West Auckland and Rodney and feedback from residents in those areas showed they are impressed with the level of services.
Ventia had 10 per cent of last November's invoice withheld, but the sum was released after an improvement plan was put in place and the results showed it exceeded 90 per cent compliance and the number of complaints reduced significantly.
Australian-based Ventia copped flak for untidy grass, overflowing rubbish bins and poor garden work not long after beginning a five-year contract to maintain parks and buildings on the North Shore, Auckland isthmus and eastern suburbs, including Howick and Pakuranga.
Orakei Local Board members reviewed 121 parks and reserves in the eastern suburbs and found 75 per cent in a substandard conditions.
In November last year, Ventia executive general manager Peter Handel issued an "unreserved apology" to the council "for the insufficient mowing and gardening work that have caused disappointment".
"We take this matter extremely seriously and have significantly increased our resources on the ground so we can catch up on delayed work," Handel said.
Ventia and UMS were two of seven companies awarded maintenance contracts in July last year with supposedly better services worth $29 million a year at no extra cost to ratepayers.
Mayor Phil Goff said: "I believe quite strongly there has to be accountability when the ratepayers pays for an agreed level of service that isn't delivered there has to be consequences," he said.
Goff said the new maintenance contracts, collectively known as the Project 17, had delivered better-quality services in most cases.