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 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.