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July 6, 2022

Ballina’s balloon ban in support of wildlife

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Seabirds strangled by wads of balloons, ribbons and strings. Photo pennys-tuppence.blogspot.com

Balloons are to be banned outside in the Ballina Shire from next year after a unanimous council vote Thursday morning.

Greens Councillor Kiri Dicker raised the motion, citing environmental concerns.

Greens Ballina Shire Councillor Kiri Dicker PIC: supplied.

‘Balloons are arguable [sic] one of the most damaging types of single use plastics,’ Cr Dicker wrote in notes for her motion, ‘this is because they can travel long distances by air, ending up on our beaches and waterways’.

Wildlife often mistook burst balloons for food, Cr Dicker wrote, highlighting dolphins, fish, turtles and seabirds.

Northern Rivers-based Australian Seabird and Rescue General Manager Olly Bird supported the councillor’s case.

Bursting the bubble on biodegradable balloons

A ban on single-use plastics started to become effective in NSW this month, starting with packaging.

Many other single-use plastic items are to be banned across the state later in the year but the list so far excludes balloons.

Many balloon makers said their products were ‘100% biodegradable’, Cr Dicker wrote in her supporting comments, but a 2020 University of Tasmania study had found the claim untrue.

‘After 16 weeks in freshwater, saltwater and industrial compost conditions, latex balloons did not degrade,’ Cr Dicker’s comments read.

Another Australian study had found balloons and other soft plastic waste 32 times more likely to kill seabirds than hard plastic waste.

Cr Dicker said NSW was the only state in Australia where releasing up to 20 helium balloons was still legal.

NSW govt fails to act on balloon pollution

The Ballina Shire Council had resolved to write to relevant state and federal ministers two years ago about balloons, the first-time councillor said.

The council had reportedly requested a review of regulations on the sale and use of helium, especially relating to balloons; for the government to educate the community on the harm of helium balloon releases; and a ban on the use of gas filled balloons on government-controlled land.

But Cr Dicker said the requests failed to prompt change in state policy.

‘As the owners and managers of public land, local councils are well placed to implement localised restrictions on balloons,’ Cr Dicker wrote, adding that a large number of councils across the country had already introduced similar restrictions.

Cr Dicker said a lot of public land in the Ballina Shire sat next to rivers, oceans and waterways.

‘As a coastal community with a commitment to sustainability, Ballina Shire Council must be a leader in protecting our seabirds and marine life,’ the Greens member said.

Balloons still allowed at kids’ parties

The progressive councilor appeared keen not to be a proverbial ‘party pooper’, specifying the bans only apply to larger events such as weddings and markets.

The ban would not affect small, informal gatherings such as birthday parties, Cr Dicker wrote, and the bans wouldn’t necessarily require enforcement.

The Greens councilor suggested a focus on targeted education and awareness campaigns instead.

Cr Dicker’s proposal won the unanimous support of her fellow councillors, meaning the release of helium balloons on public land in the Ballina Shire is to be banned effective immediately.

Speaking briefly to The Echo during a meeting break, fellow Greens’ Councillor Simon Chate said the balloon ban was important in terms of mitigating against ever-increasing threats to biodiversity.

The use or supply of all types of balloons, where all, or part, of the event occurs outside, is to be banned from 1 January 2023.

Councillors also agreed to write to the NSW and federal environment ministers outlining Ballina’s balloon ban.


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8 COMMENTS

  1. Congratulations, Ballina Council well done !
    You couldn’t expect State or Feds to have such a rational outlook , but helium balloons in particular, are well known to have these disastrous effects on wildlife . What a shame they can’t see the same stupidity in the use of indiscriminate death trap nets, designed to placate cowardly tourists and limp-wristed surfers , too scared to experience a natural environment.
    Cheers, G”)

  2. Not only that – but helium gas is rapidly running out. It is entirely non- renewable, escaping from the ground through the puncture wounds where it is extracted, and then literally escaping the earths atmosphere into outer space. Unlike many other gasses it cannot be created through chemical process. It is an important gas used in science and medical applications, so the use of it for party balloons is incredibly wasteful of a very precious resource, and should be banned in itself.

    • Helium is being continuously created by the core of the Earth. It was already venting out of one of the wells we use, that’s how helium was discovered.

  3. Congratulations. Helium balloons left in salt water for 6 years at ASTR have still not degraded. The Lennox Library now have free borrowable party packs with bunting instead of balloons for kids parties. For the Wildlife. Once a bird or turtle eats a balloon it has to keep swallowing the whole string as well which tangles up the entire intestine.

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