FREMANTLE council is looking at strategies to reduce its use of the controversial weed killer Roundup.
There’s been a growing outcry against councils using the glyphosate in local parks following a World Health Organization declaration it’s probably carcinogenic and a Four Corners expose on legal papers from chemical giant Monsanto which showed concerns about its safety from within the company.
Australia’s regulatory body the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority, and Monsanto, say Roundup is safe to use if the label instructions are followed, pointing to many studies which support that position.
But local photographer Adam Monk was incensed to see the product being sprayed near the children’s playground at Booyeembara Park recently.
“…the wind was blowing east-northeast at 15 knots and you could smell the spray 100 metres away,” Mr Monk told the Herald, noting the nearby wetland was also affected.
“They have been spraying it right up to the water’s edge and right up into the reeds, which of course then die.
“It hate to think what it is doing to the frogs, ducks and other water birds.
“For a council that claims to be ‘green’ environmentally conscious and progressive this is pretty woeful.”
The council’s parks and landscapes manager Ryan Abbott says as part of a commitment to the One Planet Strategy, a report on ways to reduce glyphosate is being prepared.
“We have an integrated management approach to control weeds which includes a range of measures including steam control, mechanical means like mowing and the use of pesticide where necessary,” Mr Abbott said.
“Steam weeding is very effective on hard surfaces like roads and footpaths and in playgrounds, but it’s also more expensive than other methods.
“There are some places like playing fields, parks and bush areas where chemical control is still the only cost-effective option.
“The city is continually reviewing our weed management to ensure best practice, with the goal of reducing year-on-year chemical use, and we are currently trialling some new approaches to weed management.”
About a month ago the council awarded a new tender that extended its steam weeding to all playgrounds, footpaths and road curbs.
Mr Abbott says they’re also hopeful that some of the new non-chemical herbicides being developed will prove to be suitable for broad-scale weed control.
The Four Corners report centred on papers released during a recent US court case where a school groundskeeper successfully sued Monsanto for contributing to his cancer through Roundup use. The company was ordered to pay $289 million in damages.
Freo council says it’s never had complaints from staff or unions about glyphosate use, but receives a small number of comments from ratepayers.
by STEVE GRANT