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Byron Shire
May 6, 2021

Protesters tackle bitou spraying

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Bitou Bush overwhelming native vegetation. Photo Doug Beckers / Flickr
Bitou Bush overwhelming native vegetation. Photo Doug Beckers / Flickr

Chris Dobney

A group of concerned residents have deliberately put themselves in harm’s way to protest the aerial spraying of herbicides by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS).

One Byron resident, Iris Ray Nunn, told Echonetdaily this morning, ‘I’m shocked. I just witnessed the NPWS chopper spray poison all over Cape Byron. Please help us stop it happening at the Tyagarah Nature Reserve next week.

Bitou bush is a noxious weed that threatens many native plants and plant communities. It is listed as a key threatening process in NSW.

NPWS has been engaged in a spraying program that included Bundjalung National Park last week, Cape Byron and surrounds today and Tyagarah Nature Reserve next week.

A group has assembled at the Nature Reserve this morning to express their concern regarding the spraying, which uses the chemical metsulfuron methyl.

They have commenced peaceful actions around the reserve, using manual removal techniques taught by Byron Shire Chemical Free Landcare co-ordinator Nadia de Souza Pietramale.

‘I ask the government to let the community take care of the problem. Let us take back our power of knowledge from the toxic pesticide corporation giants into our power of healing the land with our hands,’ said Nadia this morning.

Some local Indigenous people are also concerned and have joined the action.

They include Jarmbi who, together with his uncle, elder Harry Boyd, said he was ‘driven by Spirit to care for Country’.

‘I know how sacred the land is and our ancestors want us to take care of it. Spraying it with poison and risking the health of the waterways, the wallabies, pipis, crabs, eagles and snakes that live in these dunes, does not sit right with my Spirit. We have to stop it.’

He added he was ‘thankful to good people like Nadia and her mentor Ellen White’ for demonstrating non-toxic techniques for removing the plant.

Arakwal approval

But the Byron Coast Area Management Committee, including community members and Bundjalung of Byron Bay (Arakwal), have recently issued a statement supporting the program ‘to control bitou bush and protect Country’.

Committee chairperson Delta Kay said, ‘evidence from monitoring demonstrates it is effective in restoring native vegetation and threatened plant species, especially in dense infestations and inaccessible cliff areas’.

NPWS pest management officer Lisa Wellman said that the aerial control of the inaccessible cliff faces at Cape Byron State Conservation Area would ‘complement ongoing ground-based efforts’.

‘Cape Byron State Conservation Area is a priority site listed under the NSW bitou bush threat abatement plan,’ Ms Wellman said.

‘Bitou bush control at Cape Byron has seen this invasive weed replaced by a regenerating grassy headland, although much work still needs to be done,’ she added.

‘The bitou bush control focuses on protecting the threatened Kangaroo Grass headland (Themeda grassland) and coastal (littoral) rainforest that are such special features of this reserve.

‘Monitoring has shown that native trees, shrubs, vines and grasses are emerging from the dead bitou bush.

‘The spraying takes only a few hours and once completed the area is re-opened,’ Ms Wellman said.

NPWS says the areas to be treated will be signposted and patrolled, staff will be present during operations and visitors are asked to pay attention to the park advisory signs.

People wishing to join the protest against the spraying can contact Jarmbi on 0400 530 683.

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  1. Once again we find out who really cares for the environment and who does not. After all, there is plenty of bitou bush up and down the coast that National Parks clearly has no interest in controlling.

    Good on you Jarmbi, Nadia and all involved in trying stop this.

    I leave one to ponder… how did humanity ever deal with weeds before these toxic weedicides were invented? Look, think, and you will find the answer to be obvious!


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