Council wanted a better way to say before a spray

Susanna Freymark

There were 15 submissions opposing Kyogle Council’s draft Pesticide Use Notification Plan.

At the Monday, May 8 council meeting, resident Graeme Gibson was one of those opposing the plan.

In the public forum part of the meeting Mr Gibson addressed councillors and council staff.

“Pesticide notification is based on the community’s right to know about use in public places,” Mr Gibson said.

“The council plan shows no acknowledgement of community concerns about widespread pesticide use.”

Mr Gibson’s issue was that the plan stated that notice was not given to residents about pesticide use unless a notification was requested.

“It is bureaucratic nonsense of the highest order,” he said.

The council should be open to better notifications and letting residents know when spraying was planned, he said.

Mr Gibson said one resident had written in their submission that while a council worker was spraying a grass verge in town, the spray came into their car through an open window.

“It is negligence in the extreme,” Mr Gibson said.

He wanted more detailed notifications given to residents on where and when spraying was happening.

The plan included the ways the council would notify residents of pesticide use such as through the council website, on Facebook, by placing a notice in the NSW Government Gazette or advertising through print and online media.

Councillor Janet Wilson said the council had a continuing issue about communication with residents.

Ms Wilson said she had concerns about pesticides, having come through the Agent Orange period.

“My preference is we don’t use pesticides or herbicides but this isn’t a reality for most of us,” Ms Wilson said.

Council general manager Graham Kennett said there were too many variables to promote pesticide notifications in the council newsletter such as weather conditions which impacted when spraying could be done.

Councillor Maggie May was not happy with the plan.

“Some of the chemicals are extremely toxic and dangerous not just for humans but also for animals and pets,” Ms May said.

“We have people with asthma, immune deficiency disorders, elderly and people with disability.”

Ms May said she had twice seen a council worker in town spraying from the window of a ute.

“I do not support this (notification) policy,” she said. “We should be told what is going on.

“We’re talking about small towns and villages – this is not the city.

“We need to do better.”

Councillor Danielle Mulholland asked whether there were alternatives to the pesticides the council used.

Assets and infrastructure services director Tony Lickiss said none “that were cost effective”.

There was no alternative to glyphosate, he said.

Mayor Kylie Thomas reminded the meeting that the debate was not about what chemicals council uses but the notification arrangements to residents of when they used them.

In an effort to “meet in the middle” Ms Thomas suggested several amendments to include more notifications when spraying was happening near swimming pools, showgrounds, pathways and sports fields.

Ms May said she was “still unhappy that we are not including all categories such as laneways, kerb and gutters” as they “run past people’s homes and people are concerned about spray drift”.

Several times a 14-day notification was suggested as working better for residents than a 30-day notification. This meant people would not have to protect themselves for a month in case of spraying. The 30-day notification remained.

As councillors continued to express concern about how residents would be notified, Ms Thomas called on planning and environmental services director Chris White.

Mr White said while he couldn’t comment on the specifics of the pesticide plan, he said the council’s Community Engagement Strategy was a guide and it included a review process.

“Council can review its community engagement platforms and programs and that is something we can do on a general level through commitment, language and access to information,” Mr White said.

This explanation didn’t address anything about the concerns on notifying residents.

At the end of the debate, councillors voted with the majority in favour of the plan. Ms May and Ms Mulholland voted against it.

Read the Pesticide Use Notification Plan here.

Listen to the council meeting here.

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