By Laura Kvigstad, Auckland Council reporter Funded by New Zealand on Air
"Everything in road corridors runs into waterways," says Senior Ecological Advisor Sarah Gibbs
Auckland Council's use of the herbicide glyphosate to kill weeds was scrutinised at the recent Weed Management Political Advisory Panel meeting. Panel members questioned how glyphosate could impact public safety and the environment.
Senior ecological advisor Sarah Gibbs presented to the panel on June 14 and said that additives to glyphosate solutions played the greatest risk, and that the major impact glyphosate could have is on water life.
“Everything in road corridors runs into waterways,” Gibbs said. “Sometimes we do get a bit of pushback from our suppliers. They say they need to use higher toxicity formulations because they are more effective.” Gibbs said using glyphosate was like driving a car, if people knew how to use and manage it, they were allowed despite the risk.
Member Trish Deans said she had seen workers spraying glyphosate not using proper safety gear and continuously spraying rather than spot spraying. Chair Richard Hills said he was aware of the instance Deans spoke about and that the employee had been retrained.
Cr Wayne Walker said glyphosate posed a threat to bees and skinks and there was increasing evidence overseas of its effect on birds. “When glyphosate is applied to flowering plants there is an impact on bees… there is a fairly colossal reduction in bee populations,” he said.
“Am I to understand we are just looking at toxicity around POEA (polyoxyethylene tallow amine) rather than glyphosate?” Walker asked.
Gibbs responded that additives put into weed killers would raise the risk rating. “The study on lizards, the impact was through the POAE. Impacts in these studies are not because of the glyphosate, it’s because of the additives.” Gibbs said she would be very concerned if glyphosate was being applied to the street.
Member Sandra Coney said the concern she heard most frequently was around the safety of kids and dogs playing in areas after they had been sprayed. Gibbs responded that while she could not say the risk was zero it was still considered very low, adding that blue dye was added to the glyphosate solution to make the public aware areas had been sprayed. “If one of my children was playing and got the blue dye on them I would wash it off but I would not take them to the doctor,” Gibbs said.
The Environmental Protection Agency is currently deciding whether to reassess glyphosate and looking at existing channels to reinforce safe use. ________________________________________________________________________________________________________
New Lynn eco warrior Sara Watson
Beacon asked New Lynn eco warrior Sara Watson for comment, and she responded, “I'm glad the use of glycosphate is under scrutiny. I've gone out on a mission with council around our waterways showing them the overuse in our parks. My concern around our waterways was met with the comment it was safe for aquatic life and sometimes used for weed control directly into the stream. I pointed out better management methods like removing a flax from a lawn area that was problematic and just continuously sprayed around. Unfortunately, unless local boards make it a priority in their budgets for mulching, weed eating and hot steam spraying the roadways, gylcosphate is the default cheapest option.