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.
‘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.