Byron Shire Council is about to vote on a motion with the goal of ceasing using all chemical-based herbicides.
The motion goes on to acknowledge that herbicides, although unpopular amongst some, are necessary to fulfill Council’s obligations. These include environmental responsibility to protect ecosystems, legal responsibility to noxious weed management, social responsibility to provide acceptable recreation facilities and economic responsibilities to maintain infrastructure etc.
It is essential for this flexibility as a hard line zero herbicide policy will fail.
I have set up chemical free ecological restoration sites with mixed success. On several organic tree-planting sites, the vitality of weeds has out competed the community’s best intentions. I have been faced with the prospect of hundreds of trees being smothered by weeds, losing thousands of dollars of plants, squandering hundreds of hours of community labour and eroding the community’s aspirations of restoring the environment. I sprayed the area with glyphosate, the project failed as a true organic site but the trees survived.
I have learnt my lesson and now promote low-chemical sites. To reduce the chemical use it requires more labour which is usually in the form of volunteers. This way we are able to achieve our restoration aims and can use around 90 per cent less herbicide. Although chemicals are used on these projects, local studies have shown we create a more stable ecological community with an increase in the number of species and individuals of native plants and animals (including frogs).
There are many organic ways to treat weeds. So those who are inspired to reverse our biodiversity loss and want to reduce Byron Shire’s reliance on herbicides are invited to a work and training session at the Mullumbimby Community Garden chem-free regen site. Come any time between 9am and 1pm on Wednesday 4 December. It’s time for less talk and more action.
Dave Rawlins, Mullumbimby Creek