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Byron Shire
February 26, 2021

Youngsters protest herbicide use

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Story & Photo Eve Jeffery

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.’



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  1. It is very unfortunate that this article which started with hope for the future with children showing their concerns about the use of chemical sprays, had to end with unsubstantiated and exaggerated statements from NPWS. The last few paragraphs of this article simply printed their claims. We know from past experiences that government departments have lied and continue to lie about these issues. The massive use of herbicides and pesticides of all kinds are definitely having a terrible impact on wildlife and people. Nothing has changed much since Rachel Carson wrote ‘Silent Springs’. So get out there, get in the way and stop the bastards. Bees, pipis, banksias, and the Pink Nodding orchids have been affected and are dying. We know, we have seen it and the Byron Chemical Free group has some recorded evidence. They have offered to clear Bitou bush by hand, so why would NPWS continue to insist it’s safe. Well! if it is safe how come it kills the Bitou bush and how come you can’t spray when there is people in the bush? Can one fill their bathtub with it? Everyone knows that the environment is a very complex web of life and to simply introduce poison into it and say it is safe makes one wonder about the sanity of those who make such claims.

  2. These youngsters are truly inspirational.
    It is their world we are passengers on.
    We need to listen to them, and care for their world.
    –No more Metsulfuron Methyl and the likes.


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