Story & Photo Eve Jeffery
A group of youngsters protested outside the Byron Shire Council chambers yesterday afternoon against what they see as unnecessary and toxic chemical usage to kill weeds throughout the shire.
The action follows a protest earlier in the week by residents against aerial spraying of bitou bush on the coastal dunes from Brunswick Heads to Belongil Beach.
The young group go by the name of Earth Guardians. They organised the action and made the colourful placards themselves.
Lotus Casuarina, a 12-year-old spokesperson for the group, says they are concerned about these issues.
‘Spraying poisonous pesticides from helicopters does not only affect the bitou bush they are trying to kill, it affects the whole area’, says Lotus.
‘The issue of spray-drift means that the toxic chemicals can be carried by the wind and into children’s backyards.
‘It can poison our pets, kill entire gardens, and even poison people themselves.
‘It goes into our waterways and affects our amazing aquatic life and the water we swim in.
‘It is documented that it kills other native plants living around the bitou bush and the chemicals pose a severe risk of poisoning for all the wildlife in the area. Aerial spraying is not safe,’ Lotus said.
Earth Guardian Holly Knott says the group strongly believe it is the children’s right to have clean air, clean water, and our playgrounds free of chemicals.
‘We support others working hard on these issues such as a group called Byron Shire Chemical Free Landcare.’
The Earth Guardians have urged people to raise awareness of the issue and have asked supporters join them at the council meeting on August 29, when mayor Simon Richardson will move a motion in council to consider stopping chemical use on council-owned land.
NPWS pest management Officer, Lisa Wellman, said the recent aerial spraying targeted extensive dense areas of bitou bush in Tyagarah Nature Reserve and followed best-practice guidelines, including weather conditions.
‘Bitou bush is a serious coastal environmental weed listed as a Weed of National Significance and as a Key Threatening Process under the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995’, Ms Wellman said.
‘Monitoring is ongoing and results this year have shown that the bitou bush control program has been highly successful.
‘Native plants increased in size, number and variety where bitou bush control was carried out in previous years.
‘Monitoring results recently published in the Review of the NSW Bitou Bush Threat Abatement Plan, June 2013, indicate bitou bush has been effectively controlled and reduced to an insignificant abundance in a number of national parks and that cover of native species has increased significantly. The public can view this report on the NPWS website at www.environment.nsw.gov.au/bitoutap/Review.htm
‘Surveys have been undertaken in the Tyagarah Nature Reserve proposed control area with no pink nodding orchids detected.
‘NPWS is aware of a number of pink nodding orchid sites including locations subject to bitou bush control programs with the orchid surviving and flourishing.
‘Other pink nodding orchid populations subject to identical aerial spray treatments indicates populations have been observed to respond favorably to the removal of the highly competitive bitou bush.
‘The relatively high abundance and densities of the pink nodding orchid observed on these sites after successive treatments, indicate the populations are highly resilient to the aerial spraying program.
‘Five years of monitoring indicate an increased abundance, density and extent of populations, combined with a high rate of flowering and fruit production, indicates the program is having a positive impact on the species and its habitat. Pink nodding orchid is listed as the 37th highest plant at risk from bitou bush invasion in NSW.’