On the eve of council elections, a war of words has broken out between Byron mayor Simon Richardson and GM Ken Gainger over the Council’s steam weeding program, which the mayor allegedly said on radio had been ‘set up to fail’ by staff.
The comments were apparently made during a round of interviews with mayoral candidates on Bay FM last Friday.
They drew a feisty response from the GM, who says he has ‘offered [Cr Richardson] the opportunity to provide me with details as to the staff member to whom his allegations relate and evidence to support those allegations so that I could instigate an independent Code of Conduct investigation into the matters raised.’
But the mayor has in turn said he has ‘requested some further information from the GM in order for me to prepare a response, though as of yet, I have not received this information from the GM.’
‘I’ve also been somewhat preoccupied this week, and so until I receive this information I will be focusing on other matters and hope to provide the response required as soon as possible,’ he added.
In a statement to Echonetdaily, Mr Gainger was defensive of the role of staff, whom he said had ‘worked diligently progressing Council’s aspirational resolution to be chemical free by late 2018.’
‘Since 2013 Council’s glyphosate use by Open Space crews has been reduced from 16,925 ml to 540 ml (2016). Overall including Works portfolios (roadsides etc) glyphosate use has been reduced by 27 per cent,’ he said.
‘Since March this year chemical treatments on roadside vegetation has ceased. Council now operates its own steam weeding machine and so far this financial year $25,000 has been spent in steam weed control around playgrounds, public amenities, high use public areas (including some sports fields) etc – the annual budget for this work is $100,000.
‘Council has also recently contracted further steam weeding resources (external provider) in the Mullumbimby main street. Council’s Better Byron Crew who look after the Byron Bay Town Centre have been hand weeding for some months. The annual chemical treatment of Bindii weed program has also been suspended this year with treatment being replaced with manual hand removal.
‘These collective actions are supported by Council’s insurers,’ Mr Gainger said.
Cr Richardson responded that it was ‘really pleasing to see staff work diligently to achieve the outcomes required within the Council resolution’ adding, ‘after initial problems we are all now on the same page and the positive results are flowing.’
‘It is great to know that staff are on board with the new way of treating weeds in public, open and highly used spaces and I look forward to further success in this area for the benefit of our community and environment.
‘It was however, unfortunate that the externally drafted Integrated Weed Management Strategy was of such a poor quality that the Biodiversity and Sustainability Committee had no choice but to recommend it not progress but begin anew. Again, staff were in agreement,’ Cr Richardson said.
Mr Gainger said that earlier this year staff had proposed a new Integrated Weed Management Strategy aimed at progressively delivering on Council’s chemical free target to the Council.
‘Council voted to have this draft strategy peer reviewed but has yet to vote the $20,000 needed to instigate this action,’ said.
‘The steam weeding machine purchased by Council is the equivalent in terms of effectiveness of any similar machine currently available in the region. It was chosen after extensive field trials,’ Mr Gainger added.