Brunswick Chemical-free site poisoned
Byron Shire Chemical Free Landcare volunteers came across an unpleasant and disappointing surprise, on Saturday May 19th. They arrived for their working bee at the chemical-free site in Brunswick Heads Crown Land. Ready to chop Bitou Bush with their loppers in their hands, they noticed that the small remaining patch of Bitou Bush, in the far South East of the area, where it meets Tyagarah Nature Reserve, had been poisoned with synthetic herbicides. Any information from the public that has witness the spray will be really appreciate.
BSCFL volunteers have been working on the Brunswick chemical free site, with permission of Crown Lands for the past 8 years, clearing and following up an area of 5 hectares of very dense Bitou bush, a weed of national significance. We have done this voluntarily with no cost to the taxpayer. We have also spent much time removing large amounts of rubbish, reporting camping etc.
After 8 years we were so close to finishing – we would have done so by the end of June (a requirement from Rous County Council for the Bitou Containment Zone). We also noticed that the pesticide application had not been highly successful. With our method the Bitou is gone! It was so disappointing!
Under the NSW Pesticide act, anyone spraying on public land is required to give notification of use. “We received no notification. You would think that through Duty of Care, the volunteers would be informed because we come into direct contact with the pesticide on the Bitou Bush as we work. Although we are there fortnightly, we also come at other times and we could be there the next day for example, when the dying-back signs are not yet present.” explained Ellen White. “Luckily some of us knew the first signs of spray die-back and stopped working”.
Who sprayed the site is unknown at this stage. BSCF coordinator, Nadia de Souza Pietramale was informed by Andrew Petroeschevsky, Dept. Industry, Crown Lands and Water Division, “I haven’t requested any contractor to spray lot 428 as far I can remember, and I will investigate the matter. However it could be a communication error as I have two contractors spraying in the area at moment: Rhonda James (Bushland Restoration Services) in Toraquina Park and the South Rock Wall, and Madhima Gulgan in the Belongil area.” He commended our work on the site.
We also contacted Rous County Council, the state government authority that enforces the Biosecurity Act In our region. They have been notifying private and public land owners North of the Byron Cape that all Bitou Bush needs to be exterminated by the 30 of June. When BSCF coordinator spoke with the organisation’s Education Officer Kim Curtis regarding the spraying on our site and our concerns with the exposure of volunteers to the herbicide she said, “It wouldn’t hurt them” illustrating a cavalier attitude to pesticide use. We asked Kim what research she had to back up her comments. No answer.
Until we know exactly which chemical was used we will stay away from Brunswick and work on the New Brighton site. However BSCFL have requested from Crown Lands that no further pesticide is used on this site, as we don’t need any assistance to meet the 30th June target.
Nadia stressed the fact that our work is free of charge to the taxpayer – there is no need to pay contractors from the public purse to spray on this site. However we do need assistance with illegal camping, a serious risk to the threaten species Pink Nodding Orchid, as our site holds the largest concentration in the Shire. “Before this species was protect by the Bitou Bush but the whole site is open now, become very attractive to illegal camping”, said Nadia.
We will be at the New Brighton site on 26th of May and 2nd and 3rd of June. Please meet us at the first curve, on the left, at North Head Road. Park your car and walk into the beach. The site is towards the south and you will see us on the dunes. This is a short strip of land, between the ocean and the back of the houses. Wear boots, long sleeve shirt, long pants, a hat, gloves, and bring water. Tools and first aid kit will be provided.
After the deep disappointment felt by ALL herbicide free Active Volunteers.