Tweed Shire Council is being urged to address the growing issue of party balloons which are killing and injuring bird and marine life in the region.
Greens Cr Katie Milne wants a strategy to ban the release of plastic and helium balloons as well as a public awareness campaign, in the face of a study showing one in every 20 birds examined by experts had been found to have ingested balloons.
In her notice of motion for Thursday’s monthly council meeting, being held at the Kingscliff Bowls Club, Cr Milne says scientists had found that releasing balloons en masse at ceremonies or funerals ‘kills birds and should be banned’.
She noted recent reports by Hobart’s Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies of balloons being found in birdlife and marine life, including in one of every 20 birds examined.
Cr Milne says council should develop a strategy to ban the release of balloons and consult with local party suppliers to formulate a community education campaign.
‘Even those in the balloon industry say it’s time to end the sight of massed balloons floating away at occasions such as funerals or sports celebrations,’ she said.
Cr Milne quotes a campaigner with the Australian Marine Conservation Society, Fiona Maxwell, saying balloons were ‘a huge threat, not only to birds, but turtles and other marine life, it certainly is time for us to come up with less polluting ways to celebrate’.
Dr Jenn Lavers, a biologist at the Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies in Hobart, according to the councillor, had found balloons in about one in 20 of every seabirds she examined, and detailed the scientist’s shocking experience of the autopsies she performed.
Cr Milne also quoted Maureen Egan, president of the Balloon Artists and Suppliers Association of Australasia, saying she too believed the days of the balloon release ‘are over and done with’.
‘Whatever goes up, comes down, and is going to be litter,’ Mrs Egan said.
Cr Milne said regulation in NSW on balloons was ‘sparse’.
‘NSW is the only state to limit the number of balloons at a release to 19,’ she said.
‘But Mrs Egan, from Wahroonga in Sydney, said this was poorly enforced.
‘She said “you can’t stop a person from doing a release, they will find the balloons and a cylinder (of helium) from a party supplier”, and that “what you’ve got to do is come up with environmental education”’.
Cr Milne said members from the balloon supplier association had created fixed balloon displays, and were developing a campaign to ‘advocate that balloons be popped and disposed of, after use’.
They called it ‘Pin it and bin it’.
The association also said alternatives to mark occasions had been suggested, such as the release of white pigeons, or release of blown bubbles.