CONTROVERSIAL herbicide glyphosate is being reinstated for use in the City of Stirling’s natural area reserves.
Councillors voted at last night’s meeting to lift a restriction imposed in late 2015 on use of the weed killer, sold commercially as Roundup, in natural areas.
But it will consider funding to reduce the chemical’s use in the upcoming budget.
A report by the City noted there were concerns about human exposure to glyphosate after the International Agency for Research on Cancer re-classified it as ‘probably carcinogenic to humans’ in 2015 but Australian regulatory body Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority later stated exposure did not pose a risk.
Cr Karen Caddy said the restriction was “causing problems for biodiversity” as volunteers could not keep up with weeding and believed the City should instead focus on reducing usage in its road reserves such as verges and pathways, which represented 61 per cent of glyphosate application annually compared to 5 per cent in natural areas.
“I think we just shouldn’t overreact to its potential impacts,” she said.
Council will consider providing $140,000 in 2018-19 for stage one of a program to phase out glyphosate within road reservations, which would reduce its use by 7 per cent.
The program will reach its final stage by 2025-26, where mechanical hot water spray units would account for 95 per cent of weed control and glyphosate 5 per cent.
The City is aiming to reduce its use of chemical-based herbicides and pesticides “where practicable and within financial resources”, as well as trial environmentally sustainable alternatives and enable ratepayers to be notified of spraying or register for a ‘no spray verge list’.
Cr David Lagan was concerned that glyphosate could still be used at sensitive sites if “practicable” and wanted steam applied instead.
“While the jury is out I’m not keen on using this type of chemical in those sensitive areas,” he said.
“I believe it’s practical to think about applying a more safe practice in sensitive areas.”
Cr Suzanne Migdale described it as a “highly contentious issue” and said the long-term effects were “inconclusive at best”.
“While it’s inconclusive I can’t support it, particularly in sensitive areas and wetlands,” she said.
But Cr David Boothman said the chemical was readily available and used by many households, while Cr Caddy said the agency’s toxicity rating for glyphosate was the same as eating red meat and burning wood.
The City’s weed and pest management policy and pesticide use notification plan will be made available for public comment.