Aerial spraying for Bitou Bush
While aerial spraying for weeds can raise fears for some people, it's part of a long established, regulated and approved program to help control weeds and protect our environment.
The aerial spraying program for bitou bush has been in place for over a decade on the Mid North Coast and is a joint program between the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service and MidCoast Council and is undertaken to protect threatened plant and animal species and endangered ecological communities that occur along the coastal strip.
The program is implemented following the ‘Best Practice Guidelines for Aerial Spraying of Bitou Bush in New South Wales’ published by the Department of Environment and Conservation.
"Aerial spraying of herbicides from helicopters has been identified as being the most effective solution to manage bitou bush in steep or inaccessible sections of the coast including vast and remote stretches of beaches and headlands" says Council's Strategic Weeds Biosecurity Officer, Terry Inkson.
"Volunteers do a great job of assisting with manual removal of bitou bush, however other methods are necessary to target areas where it is too dangerous to send people to treat the weed.
"It's necessary to use a range of treatment methods to effectively control bitou bush. Aerial spraying is just one facet of a comprehensive integrated program, with other methods including bush regeneration techniques, physical controls, mechanical controls (including the use of fire), low and high volume spraying, and biological controls" said Terry Inkson.
Previous efforts over the past decade have seen a huge reduction of mature bitou bush in managed areas, however ongoing treatments are necessary to prevent reinfestation. At Hawks Nest alone, mature bitou bush has been reduced by around 96% allowing re-establishment of local native species since aerial treatments commenced in 2007.
Recent public comments by concerned residents about the chemicals used are also somewhat misleading, due to misinterpretation of technical data.
"While we understand that people are always concerned about the use of chemicals in the environment, and rightly so, Council does not use chemicals unless they are approved for such use by relevant authorities and do so in accordance with best practice management guidelines, to ensure maximum efficiencies and safety" said Terry Inkson.
"For general community safety, as a precautionary measure, Council needs to implement buffer zones by restricting access to certain areas on beaches and in the water when this activity is occurring. This is why we place signage and clear the areas for the duration of the activities" explains Terry.
If you have concerns about the coastal aerial spraying program, please view our FAQs sheet(PDF, 3MB) .
If your question isn't answered there, you can ask our expert staff using the form below. We'll get back to you as soon as possible with a response.
Click here to view form.
Our use of pesticides
Our Pesticide Use Notification Plan sets out the process we follow to inform the community about pesticide use in the local area, including outdoor public places owned or controlled by Council.
Council ensures that pesticides are applied to public places in a safe, responsible manner, minimising harm to the community and the environment.
The plan allows members of the community to take action to avoid contact with pesticides, if they wish.
For more information, read the MidCoast Council Pesticide Use Notification Plan.
Our position on glyphosate
Glyphosate is a popular broad-spectrum herbicide which works by inhibiting an enzyme found in plants. There are around 500 products containing glyphosate registered for use in Australia. Glyphosate has been registered for use for over 40 years. It is widely available over the counter of retailers and merchants for use by the general community and industry to manage vegetation in a wide range of situations.
MidCoast Council uses glyphosate as part of our management of weeds across our region.
We only use chemicals currently approved for use and use all pesticides in accordance with the label and permit requirements.
A variety of herbicides are used to manage specific weeds depending on the site conditions and we have a practice of alternating chemicals to manage herbicide resistance.
Toxicological and ecological reports contained within the material safety data sheet for the chemicals we use, and other supporting literature, indicates that when applied as per the directions there is a very low risk of either acute or chronic impacts from the use of these herbicides.
We continually keep up-to-date with advancement in pest plant technology and work with NSW DPI, the Hunter Weeds Advisory Group and other weed scientists.
Pesticides are assessed and registered by the Australian Pesticide and Veterinary Medicines Authority before they are permitted to be used in NSW. They regularly review the toxicology of glyphosate and its use in Australia and their current stance is that registered use of glyphosate in Australia, as per label instructions, is safe. Regulators in Europe, New Zealand, Canada and the United States hold a similar view.
Read the APVMA position on glyphosate here.
The NSW EPA regulates the proper use of pesticides through the provisions of the Pesticides Act 1999 and associated regulations.
Many Commonwealth and NSW government agencies, as well as other stakeholder organisations, have a role in managing pesticides in NSW.
Council maintains an Environmental Protection licence issued by EPA under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act to spray over or near water.