Our annual Bitou Bush eradication program will begin on June 1 with a range of methods being used to manage this invasive weed, while also protecting threatened plant and animal species and endangered ecological communities that occur along our coastal strip.
Bitou bush grows quickly and forms dense hummocks in dunes between which coastal breeze is channelled promoting erosion.
It also replaces native plants both by direct completion and by altering the soil chemistry, further weakening the structural integrity of our dunes and destroying the complex habitat of native mammals and birds.
This year strategies include aerial spraying using drones and helicopters, as well as abseiling down cliff faces to target inaccessible, remote stretches of beaches and headlands, and on ground spraying of dunes by professional bush regenerators in more accessible areas of Old Bar.
We’re conscious of the community’s concerns around the use of herbicides but we’d like to reassure everyone that our contractors only use approved treatment methods.
The program will be carried out following recommendations contained in the ‘Best Practice Guidelines for Aerial Spraying of Bitou Bush in New South Wales’ published by the Department of Environment and Conservation.
Several areas on the coastal strip within the MidCoast region will be treated by aerial spraying, from Crowdy Head, south to Hawks Nest, using drones for a more targeted approach.
Sections of beaches and some nearby camping areas, carparks and roads will be subject to short term temporary closures while the aerial spraying is being carried out and Council staff will be on site during these closures.
We will also have signage and a buffer zone in place around the areas of dune being treated in Old Bar and Landcare will be replanting shortly after spraying takes place to ensure regeneration can begin as soon as possible.
Please see below for a list of frequently asked questions.
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.
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If you have any concerns or for further information feel free to call us on 7955 7777.
- Why didn’t we capitalise on COVID19 and do it when the beaches were closed and less kids were at school?
The best time to control Bitou Bush is when the plant is actively flowering. Bitou flowers during the cooler months of Autumn/Winter. COVID restrictions were in effect during the warmer start to the Autumn season that wasn't the best time to treat the plant. We also had issues with the availability of contractors during this time.
- What barricades will be in place to prevent the public from walking near/on treated areas?
With our on ground treatment – signage will be set during the treatment. Contracted bush regenerators will be on site to exclude people from the treatment sites and pedestrians are to use the formal access tracks at all times.
During Aerial spraying - formalised access tracks will be roped off with barrier tape.
When utilising a large scale helicopter, as we have previously, high-use tracks and certain beach areas are manned with Council personnel.
When utilising drones, as we are this year, certain beach areas will be manned with Council personnel.
- What signage will be in place to notify the community?
Aerial Spraying - Signage will be set 3 days prior to the program. When the program reaches the specific site, the treatment area will be checked, the site will be closed using staff on ground where applicable. Signage will be removed after each area's work is completed.
- Have you consulted with the affected residents, businesses, school? – How?
Yes we have through a range of methods including media releases, radio, our website, letter box drops and phone calls.
- Do you have a clear schedule so we know what days to avoid that part of the beach?
Unfortunately we don't. Due to unpredictable weather and other possible unforeseen complications, it is impossible to give a precise time or date as we may change locations on the day. We are at the mercy of a range of issues but this means we ensure we are choosing the best location for the particular day.
- Why don’t you close the beach?
The Beach is only closed for aerial treatments.
Aerial Spraying Program - Temporary closures of the beach during works are in place in case of drone or helicopter accident.
The focus of these treatments is on the dunes so the main front of the beach can remain open.
- How long does this chemical stay in the air? How long is it active on the ground?
The chemical is only temporarily in the air and settles on the target within seconds of being released – the aerial spray application uses a large droplet and is designed to ensure minimal drift and maximum accuracy.
Once the chemical has dried on the plant it is safe to re-enter the area. The chemical is absorbed into the plant and is active within the plant until it expires.
- How long would you recommend we avoid the area?
Only during the temporary closures. Once the chemical has dried on the plant it is safe to re-enter the area. This takes between an hour to an hour and a half to dry. This shouldn't be an issue as pedestrians should always ensure they are using the formal access tracks – to protect native flora.
- How does it affect other plants?
Most native plants are resistant to low doses of the chemicals approved for use. (see table in best practice guidelines). Winter is the best time to treat Bitou as Bitou is functional during this time (flowering and seeding), while native vegetation is typically dormant which means less exposure risk to natives. In addition, Bitou is highly susceptible to the approved herbicides so a weakened dose is able to produce maximum affect, further reducing the risk to native vegetation.
- Is there a risk to native plants on the dunes or the rainforest out the front of the school?
The area in front of the school is being undertaken by hand and is more targeted. It is a different process to aerial spraying with a large scale helicopter and even a drone. Used at a reduced strength during winter, the approved chemicals don’t affect native plants as they are in their dormancy this time of year.
- How targeted is the spraying – both aerial and manual?
Many variable conditions exist to give weight to the decision of which technique is used in which situation. Aerial spraying is delivered in low doses during the winter time that allows for overspray to contact non target species with minimal to no impact (it is this low dose that gives the treatment its targeted status). With very good operators, high volume spraying by hand can, in most cases, be more targeted to the undesirable species being managed.
- If you’re killing the bitou bush what is stabilising the dune? Will we get more erosion while we wait for it to regenerate?
The roots of the Bitou are shallow and their stabilising ability is not as strong as native vegetation. The Bitou sprayed will remain in place allowing native vegetation a window of opportunity to dominate and take the Bitou's place. We are grateful to have the assistance of Manning Coastcare Group to replant in these areas, shortly after spraying.
- When does the replanting happen?
Together with Manning Coastcare Group we will be replanting shortly after spraying.
Natural revegetation will also occur, based on soil seed bank and proximity to native vegetation – planting exercises are undertaken in certain areas to assist with natural processes.
- What happens if it’s windy, do you still go ahead with spraying?
It depends on how windy it is. All spraying processes require some wind to help settle chemical onto plants.
Regardless of the methods employed to treat weeds with herbicides, Council follows and implements all legislation and best practice guidelines as dictated by relevant government authorities such as APVMA, EPA and OEH.
Council and contractors monitor weather conditions and keep track of weather forecasts several days before the spray operation. Spraying does not occur when raining, after frost, or when wind speed is likely to cause herbicide to drift.
- Do the contractors wear protective gear? Should the public wear protective gear?
Contractors and Council staff will be wearing Personal Protective Equipment commensurate to the level of risk identified by the particular work practice being undertaken. Being in close proximity to, spraying and handling chemical requires a different level of protection from someone who is not in close contact with the chemicals. This is a part of the reason why, with aerial spraying short term closures are necessary. Persons of the public should not approach workers when hand spraying to avoid close contact with chemicals being applied. This is no different to the measures in place when applying chemicals for treatment of public areas for bindiis or other pests.
- What herbicides are you using?
Lynx WG (Metsulfuron methyl 600g/kg) will be applied at 20-30g/ha; or Macspred Glymac 360 (Glyphosate 360g/L) will be applied at 2 L/ha.
These herbicides will be applied as per requirements of APVMA off label permit 12251 for the control of Bitou Bush in coastal sand dunes, bushland and grass land.
Affected areas include Crowdy Head Beach, Crowdy Head Reserve (Harrington Beach), Manning Point Beach, Farquhar Park and inlet, South Old Bar to Wallabi Point, Nine Mile Beach Tuncurry, Boomerang Point Headland, Sandbar / Cellito Beach at Pacific Palms and Bennetts Beach, Yacabba Peninsula, Jimmys Beach and Winda Woppa at Hawks Nest.
Following ‘Best Practice Guidelines for Aerial Spraying of Bitou Bush in New South Wales'.