Concern about chemical weed killer

Chemical weed spraying of the Yeoman Walkway in Katikati has prompted concern due to its proximity to the Uretara Stream.

A Katikati resident has expressed concern about the use of the chemical glyphosate to rid the Yeoman Walkway of weeds, given its close proximity to the Uretara Stream.

Anton van Rotterdam, a regular user of the walkway, was dismayed last month to see how close weed spraying had been conducted in relation to the stream.

“Should we be surprised that our waterways are polluted and unsafe to swim in?” he asks.

“I regularly see the spray units being used around town, including along the waterfront near the harbour. Roundup (of which the key ingredient is glyphosate) is believed to cause cancer.

“It seems to be used everywhere in New Zealand and it ends up in our waterways, which is very bad.”

The 15-year European licence for glyphosate expired in 2016 and the European Union last year rejected a temporary five-year licence extension while it considers a total ban.

More than 1.3 million people from seven countries petitioned the EU for a moratorium on the use of glyphosate based on its links to cancer.

The company that makes Roundup, Monsanto, and farmers around the world, including in New Zealand, claim there is no viable alternative in weed control.

The New Zealand Environmental Protection Agency commissioned a report into glyphosate’s possible cancer links in 2016 and found it “unlikely” to be carcinogenic.

The Western Bay of Plenty District Council confirmed that its contractor, Downer, sprayed the Yeoman Walkway with glyphosate in December as per the terms of its reserves contract.

“In this instance the applicator sprayed when there was less than 10km wind and used a wetting agent to further reduce the incident of spray drift and increase the absorption of chemical by the target weed species.”

A spokeswoman for the council says there are no plans to use a different weed spray.

“Many alternatives trialled, such as steam spraying, do not have a sufficient effect and they are not cost-effective.

“Council is bound by extremely strict adherence to the rules around the use of agrichemicals, so there is no risk of glyphosate being used recklessly by our contractor.”

Tauranga City Council also uses glyphosate for weed control in some of its reserves, but has a preference for non-chemical methods where practical. More than 20 reserves in the city are glyphosate-free.