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Byron Shire
April 19, 2021

Huonbrook weeders cry foul over council spraying

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Stacks of hand-pulled jump weed piled along the side of the road in Huonbrook. Photo Donald Drinkwater
Stacks of hand-pulled jump weed piled along the side of the road in Huonbrook. Photo Donald Drinkwater

Chris Dobney

A roadside weeding initiative by a few concerned locals has failed to stop Byron Shire Council spraying the controversial herbicide glyphosate in Huonbrook.

A volunteer group including Huonbrook organic farmer Donald Drinkwater spent hours in recent weeks pulling thousands of ‘jump weed’ plants from council verges, leaving them to dry in small piles along the roadside so they would be visible to council staff.

Mr Drinkwater emailed Byron Shire mayor Simon Richardson about the initiative and reminded him of the council’s chemical-free register, which some of the landholders have signed on to.

He told the mayor council staff had given contradictory information about the nature of the register to people calling up.

‘Recently a couple of locals have been phoned from council telling them that their roadside frontages were to be sprayed. When one elderly resident phoned council about not wanting the herbicide she was told she could leave her property for the day. On another call to council, she was told it wouldn’t happen if she didn’t want the spraying to take place,’ he wrote.

Mr Drinkwater said he had yet to receive a reply from the mayor but a council spokesperson told Echonetdaily, ‘persons on the chemical sensitive register are advised when spraying is occurring adjacent to their property. Council take steps to minimise spraying in these areas.

‘In the current case there was only one property adjacent to the works area and they were contacted prior to the spraying. Temporary signage was in place during the spraying as required by the Pesticide Notification Plan,’ the spokesperson said.

Mr Drinkwater was disappointed to find that spraying of glyphosate had commenced in the vicinity, despite his email to the mayor.

‘It was to my dismay when I received three phone calls this morning (Tuesday) telling me that the spraying men were distributing a herbicide along the edges of the road-side where we have already weeded and are continuing with follow up as time permits,’ Mr Drinkwater told Echonetdaily.

‘Byron Shire Council has pledged to cease the use of herbicides on public land during the next five years,’ he added.

‘More independent evidence from outside of the chemical companies, is showing increasing contamination of waterways from  herbicide residues in run-off after rain.

‘Recent samples from the Great Barrier Reef, to sediment along the seashore, have found rising evidence of glyphosate traces. Some regard independent science regarding glyphosate as hocus pocus but didn’t some of us say the same about asbestos, DDT and tobacco?

‘This is a very disappointing development and another blow to those of us who are walking the walk.  Byron Shire Council should be supporting all community involvement in herbicide free weed removal,’ Mr Drinkwater said.

He added that he and many of his neighbours had moved to the area, ‘because we genuinely care for what is left of our already severely degraded environment’.

‘But those of us who live and work on the land and in the rainforest know by continual observation that adaptation is the only way forward with the acceleration of climate unpredictability. Poison applied to our remaining ecology is a serious impediment to the health of our water and our soils and everything that lives from it. Think of the small birds that feed on sprayed insects, the tiny frogs sheltering then have a poison sprayed on their skins. And everything else we can’t see,’ Mr Drinkwater said.

Byron Shire’s executive manager of planning and environment, Ray Darney, said the works by council were within the road reserve and were undertaken to control a new and emerging weed in the valley.

‘Whilst council has done hand weeding at the site in the past, the weeds had continued to spread and the decision to do some minor spot spraying was made to keep on top of the problem,’ Mr Darney said.

He added that council welcomed working with community groups and volunteers but said that, ‘In meeting the needs of the community, a work program needs to be established with volunteers that clearly shows areas they are working on so council can accommodate the volunteers in its works program.’

Steam weeding

Steam weeding is currently being trialled at six parks and playgrounds in Byron Shire but infrastructure services director Phil Holloway said the jury was still out on its effectiveness.

‘While there are signs of some die-back, some weeds  grew back in three weeks.

‘Unfortunately, steam weeding is not the solution for killing all weeds.

‘Due to the need for repeated treatments, the cost is also quite high and cannot be used throughout the entire shire at this stage.

‘However, steam weeding will continued to be used and monitored at six locations,’ he said.

Mr Holloway said a report on the trial will go to council in February next year including an update on the discussion/update on the development of an Integrated Weed Management Strategy for Council.


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  1. I wish council would clean up and spray the weeds in Ewingsdale – especially the singapore daisy that is taking over one side of Taylors Lane (recently landowners have done fencing and this has reduced some of it – good opportunity to spray it before it takes over again.

    • What about some physical in-put ? get out and enjoy what you observe while removing what you deem invasive.
      Europeans came here all those years ago, we brought all these invasives , us included, Do you think that a herbicide is really the way to rid you of a visual that you deem invasive ?

  2. Our Council talks about best practices, – use steam, or unemployed muscle.
    Surely it is obvious that heavy duty chemicals like Glyphosate (Roundup) were/are a mistake. Soil, leaf and air are home to tiny galaxies of microorganisms and they are in prefect balance with the whole organism, – like almost every other creature except us. It is imperative we realise that spraying toxic substances onto other species and soil, air and water is poisoning “ourselves”, and our pollinators and is simply not “healthy” is there any value above health?

  3. Jump weed? Jump weed? What exactly IS jump weed? Chris Dobney, Mr Drinkwater, would either of you consider to do some research fact finding and present to us, the reading public, a botanic name please?

    I googled jump weed and no luck?

    Just so we all might know exactly what’s being written about!

    • Jump weed, lantana, privet and and and. Climate change is about adapting, not pouring more poisons into our environment. Birds, moths, caterpillars that have survived our incursions into their habitats deserve all of our remaining awareness to not inflict any-more harm. Hey, jump weed was unknown to me until the herbicide happy exterminators decided to target it. I understand it to be a coleus, escapee, like you and me, from its original habitat.

      • Hey Donald, knowing the botanic/scientific name of any plant puts YOU and those around you in the drivers seat to learn all about that plant, its growth requirements, natural habitat, its propagation, pests and diseases and such that affect its ability to flourish. With such knowledge at your fingertips you are especially well placed to figure out what it takes to halt it’s growth and so most powerfully enabled to deal with the invader/s most effectively.

        Please come back here and post the plants name for us all the minute you manage to pinpoint it won’t you. I would suggest sending a specimen to the North Coast Regional Botanic Garden Herbarium to get an identification unless you’re able to get it formally identified more locally.


        • Jumpseed (rather than jump weed) was identified by local botanist Andrew Murray when weed surveys were completed in 2006. It is also called Virginia Knotweed, and there is a variety known horticulturally as Painter’s Palette. The name Jumpseed seems to be metaphorical, as I don’t think they have an explosive dispersal mechanism, but rather just come up unexpectedly all over the garden as though they have been jumping around.

          The scientific name was determined as Persicaria virginiana, but one of the commentators suggested P. filiformis. They seem to be synonyms, botanically speaking, but as the Royal Botanic Gardens webpage (Plantnet) uses P. filiformis, we should probably go with that. I expect you are familiar with Smartweeds- there are native and exotic species locally, they are also Persicarias.
          Thanks to B Stewart.

          • Yes! Now we’re talking! Jumpseed not Jump weed and to be even more certain we’re all on the same page it’s probably best folks also go with Persicaria filiformis, thanks so very much for putting me and the rest of the readers in the picture Donald it is very much appreciated! Common names are of only so much use hey 🙂

  4. Yes. What exactly is “Jump weed”? Providing a proper/scientific name is essential. Although the photo of piles of “Jump Weed” is not particularly clear, it looks as though it might be Persicaria filiformis or a similar species. See:

    This weed is quite uncommon in NSW. If the weed actually is Persicaria filiformis then hand removal is unlikely to be the best control method because hand removal is unable to remove all of the rhizomes and lots of follow-up control and/or digging is likely to be required.

  5. Thats exactly what we are doing, follow up. We use digging instruments to remove the roots. This plant has been sprayed numerous times over the last years and re-sprouts so get active you nay sayers, are you hooked to a chemical solution. lazy in other words, all, talk no action..

  6. Concerned Resident

    To Botany 1 and 2 the weed in question is a Persicaria, not Persicaria filiformis, but the less known Persicaria virginiana, commonly known as Jumpseed (not Jumpweed). Like a lot of weeds it is a shade tolerant garden escapee.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persicaria_virginiana (not on plantnet)

    This weed is easily treated by spraying with herbicide which will result in little or no regrowth from the roots. Most of the plants being weeded are seedlings from the persistent soil seed bank or regrowth from previous hand weeding efforts. I have noticed in Huonbrook Council has on several occasions used its limited resources to hand pull this weed on road verges to accommodate residents on the chemical free register. Many residents within the shire and the Huonbrook area are supportive of the efforts of both Council and the other people working to restore out native ecosystems.

    The issue of limited resources is one that motivates people working to restore native vegetation, to use chemicals. Most of the people working to save the species and ecosystems that are threatened by weeds would love to do so without the use of chemicals, unfortunately this is often impractical due to either limited budgets or limited volunteers.

    Although there are techniques for removing some weeds manually, they are slow and require large amounts of follow up work to be successful. The hours of labour required to treat a patch of woody weeds (say camphor laurel and privet) would be significantly more using non chemical methods. Given the huge problem we are facing with weeds threatening our native species, this is not good enough.

    Additionally, to achieve any results on a large scale it is likely that the non chemical methods would involve the use of machinery, which funnily enough rely on chemicals petrol, diesel, oil etc…, all of which are known to have detrimental effects on our ecosystems.

    In NSW, pest animals and weeds have been identified as a threat to 70% of the species, populations or ecological communities listed under the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995, that is those species and ecosystems that will go extinct without our help. Interestingly chemical use is not even listed as a threat.

    We have solutions to deal with many of the threats affecting our precious ecosystems and the species that call them home, some of which involve the use of chemicals. Is it reasonable to choose to spend the limited resources Council or land or owners have treating small areas without chemicals, or would it be more strategic to evaluate the tools we have available, choose the ones that have the greatest effect with the least negative impacts and do our best to deal with the massive landscape scale challenges facing our unique ecosystems? To me this is a no brainer.

    Lastly, to quote studies that involve application of chemicals in an agricultural landscape and apply them to restoring bushland is misleading in my opinion. Seasonal application of Glyphosate to entire paddocks, year after year is a long way from targeted application to specific weeds as used in natural area restoration. If people want to address chemicals entering waterways and our oceans they should be targeting these large scale applications, thinking about where there food comes from and how their consumer dollar supports these industries, rather than hindering the work of hard working people that are doing everything in their power to help restore our degraded natural landscape.

  7. If steam weeding is not the solution for killing all weeds, synthetic pesticides also can’t be the solution. How can we rely on a poison that gives us cancer. Who will pay the bill for the pain and loss of family members. Not the local council obviously. There are so much research out there of the danger of Glyphosate for our healthy, that it does not matter what weed it is, the fact is that keep spraying this synthetic pesticides every where is not sustainable and it is polluting our water, soil and air like CSG does. The healthy effects and risks isn’t some thing that you will see at a naked eye, the process is slowly and eventually get us by the throat (thyroid dysfunction), by the breast (breast cancer) and by the bolls (prostrate cancer). Also, deep down it is violence towards any leaving being included humans as the end result is pain and in many case lost of life’s.

    I have being very devoted toward chemical free weed control and the knowledge is powering. With the Bitou Bush chemical free site in Brunswick Heads, being a great success that it speaks for it self, just go and have a look between the Dog walking beach access and the Horse beach access , South of the Surf Club. In this site we are dealing with Bitou Bush, Brazilian Cherry, Ocna and Glory Lily using chemical free methods of weed control. So the best away to learn is come and joy us on the working bees every second Saturday as there is no school to teach the community how to manege the land sustainable when come to weed control. There is no such a thing as a weed that can not be control with no chemical, any plant that can’t realize photosynthesis collapses and with many weeds, much faster then you think. So unsubscribe from the synthetic pesticide companies by stop buying its products, a few weeds here and there is not the end of the world, however cancer can be the end for YOU.

  8. I used to fight weeds but have always held that Nature is our best teacher about Nature, Who better? Especially when human knowledge is so incomplete and so biased. In my 60 years of being a gardener, nature-lover, veggie-grower, bush regenerator, qualified ecologist and Earth-loving environmentalist, I conclude this about weeds: the planet needs her green ‘clothes’ to do all the essential jobs that plants do – many we know of, but many are yet to be discovered. We humans in our greed, arrogance or just plain ignorance move species around all over the planet, and cut, poison and burn whatever we want with no regard for the big picture of Nature and the global ecology. So Nature adapts and uses whatever green ‘clothes’ are available to hold and protect her precious soil (which we constantly expose and lose with our poison use), make air for us to breathe and keep water clear (both of which we constantly contaminate with our poison use), feed and house all the animals (which we constantly harm and kill with our poison use), provide mulch and protection for baby native plants (which are collateral damage due to our poison use), maintain the ‘plant internet’ and forest support networks(which are broken with our poison use), etc. All the natural ecological functions have to go on with us or without us. If weeds are what’s available to do a particular task that Nature needs done (whether we understand it or not), then Nature will use weeds.

    It is time we drop our greed, arrogance and ignorance, and pay close attention to our greatest teacher about Nature, ie Nature herself. See what she is doing and why in every situation, and think big picture and long term. The climate has always and will always cycle. Likewise with the very shape of the land and whether it’s forest or desert or above or below water, snow, in use by humans or not, etc. We cannot say what will be best for Nature in future or even right now (except that our love, awareness and co-operation will always be key). And we must accept that the planet has its own wisdom in all matters. So we must learn with humility. Then work in with Nature and she will meet and help us 10-fold. We do not need to utterly eradicate weeds. We only need to carefully manage them in specific places at specific times, and little or no poison need be used to achieve it, just a diverse mix of non-toxic methods. Instead of wholesale toxic destruction of weeds, how about considering aiming for a give-and-take BALANCE, knowing that it will change over time, both in terms of what we need and what Nature needs? We get into habits of thinking and doing and they need to be seriously questioned.

    I can give many examples of learning from and working with Nature in the matter of weeds, thinking gentle and long-term.

    Just a few examples:

    1. Big camphor laurel trees about to be cut down until rare and beautiful Grey Falcons were found to be using the copse of camphors as home and nesting place. Sensible human response was: control baby camphors by hand until native trees of similar structure to camphors have grown big enough to house the falcons. And until the native regen could close the canopy further controlling weeds.

    2. Same scenario with a family of camphor-nesting Barn Owls who were doing a great job of controlling Black Rats.

    3. And again with koalas – camphors being used as resting trees by koalas because their food trees in the area were a bit too small for comfortable sitting up high. Same recommendation as in the case of the falcons.

    4. The weed Farmer’s Friend growing rampant where glyphosate has been heavily sprayed. Nature is using whatever plant can thrive in the toxic environment to do the job of repairing and bringing life back to the chemical-damaged soil. Like Nature’s clean-up crew in haz-mat suits!

    5. Lantana thickets being nursery to the self-sown seedlings of dozens of species of native rainforest trees, including secondary and tertiary species that require some canopy in order to grow. Sensible human response was: instead of poisoning and hacking the lantana, the trunks were sawn through at waist height and the whole ‘superstructure’ left in place. The leaves gradually died and dropped, gently gradually increasing light levels and mulching soil, giving the baby natives time to adapt and grow. Even after leaf fall, the network of lantana twigs and branches continues to protect the baby natives til they grow up through it and the no-longer-needed lantana will crumble to mulch. Meanwhile, for just 30 mins per day every tiny green shoot on the waist-high lantana stumps was flicked off with a thumbnail or stone. With no sunlight feeding the roots the lantana stumps were dead within a few months and began rotting. Minimum effort for maximum return!

    6. Bindis hand-removed from an acre of lawn by working with Nature in regard to timing. In late winter and early spring before the bindis flowered and after good soaking rains had softened the soil, 30 mins a day was spent carefully twisting the whole bindi including roots up out of the ground. Bindis placed in a bucket to be rotted out or dried out and burned. If there were any early seeds most of them were collected in the weeding process by gripping the whole plant before pulling. Result: lovely bare foot-friendly, non-toxic lawn and very manageable small level of re-growth from a few escaped seeds, a fraction of the work in subsequent years.

    7. Likewise with 120 acres of Fireweed by just 2 people on their daily ‘walk of the property’!

    8. Likewise with big patches of Madeira vine, tubers hand dug, nodules collected off the ground.

    Consistency is more important than scale. Too often volunteer weed control is One Big Day of massive effort, then neglected until the problem is as big as before and workers get discouraged thinking their efforts make no difference. Poison is NOT the answer to this problem: the weeds just return and return and the poison keeps being sprayed and the soil, water and air keep getting more and more toxic – the problem is magnified not solved. Using gentle natural methods which can be sustained regularly means that each area done and brought back to a minimal-maintenance state lets you expand to more adjacent areas, and the environment, including what you’re working in and breathing in, stays safe and healthy. And the Native vegetation will progressively take care of the ‘done’ areas for you, making fo follow-up less intensive.

    These 30 minute per day jobs are a great break for the body and eyes away from the strain of office environments and computers, and it’s amazing how fast your efforts add up. Nature helps by quickly filling the gaps with your favoured plants, and nobody gets sick or dies (except a few weeds whose job is done).

    I hope some of these examples have inspired some thinking caps. We don’t need a one-size-fits-all ‘bulldozer’-style of weed control but a wise, diverse, tailored approach that looks at what we really need and how we can work with Nature to attain it.

  9. i am currently testing a steam machine for domestic use,
    collating as much information…… on as many weeds as i can.
    and hopefully i will be ready early next year for people to hire me out.

    and it is true,…… i am finding that many weeds need more than 1 application
    – but, as a lot of people know, chemicals, herbicides also suggest 2 applications for best results.

    steam weeding, (saturated steam, boiling hot water) is a much safer option in the long term……FOR EVERY LIVING THANG !!!!

  10. With regards to Carbon emissions (CE), European studies in 2007 determined relative energy consumption of 5 various non chemical treatments. Flames, hot air, steam, hot water and brushes. A comparative data was collected in Australia on the SW900 saturated steam unit. There is also research showing energy consumed and CE in producing glyphosate (herbicide).
    The factors in calculating CE of any methods must include the amount of applications required to maintain the area to the expected presentation standard and the size of the area treated.
    Over a year it was calculated that saturated steam is the most efficient and delivers the least emissions, steam treatment (Danstream) was 40% less efficient, hot water <98C was the least efficient of the wet thermal methods.
    Once the CE has been calculated it is simple enough to have a carbon offset strategy through tree plantings.


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