David Clendon

Round(ing)Up Auckland’s weeds? Who decides?

by David Clendon

A couple of recent articles in the Aucklander  reveal that we might once again have to fight a battle that we thought was  ‘won’ more than a decade ago.  

The old Auckland City and North Shore City councils had a largely chemical-free regime in place to manage roadside weeds, following many years of public concern and protest about the use of chemicals.

The weapon of choice in the other legacy councils was glyphosate, aka RoundUp.  Despite the protestations of its manufacturer Monsanto and others, independent research has linked Roundup to serious adverse effects on human health and the environment, including the aquatic and marine environments.

There is now a process underway that will decide whether the chemical-free policy and practice becomes the norm for the whole Supercity, or a return to the use of glyphosate becomes the default. 

The public’s opportunity to affect the outcome of that review might be limited.  It appears that the choice of methods – chemical or otherwise – is being reviewed and will be decided upon by Auckland Transport, the largest of the Council Controlled Organisations (CCOs), rather than by our democratically elected and accountable councillors.

To date very few coucillors seem to be aware of the issue, or have had an opportunity to hear from those who have concerns about going back to a regime that is known to have ill effects.  The local boards, I understand, will not get a say until after the first draft of a policy is completed by Auckland Transport, rather than having them involved in the process right from the beginning.

 There may be an assumption that chemicals are more effective and cheaper than organic and mechanical methods.  This is unproven as yet, and is a particularly dubious proposition if you factor in the likely associated costs to human health and environmental quality. 

North Shore City and the old Auckland City were not noticeably ‘weedier’ than other legacy councils, and to revert to chemical use despite years of protest and abundant evidence of harm would be a seriously retrograde step.

Now would be a good time to contact your councillors and local board members to make sure they are informed and active on the issue.    These processes otherwise have a habit of rolling along under the public’s radar.  There are a lot of battles to fight to protect human health and the environment, so we dont want to be revisiting old battlegrounds!

Listen in to Green Auckland on Planet FM next Monday at 9.05am (or any time after that via the archive)  to hear my interview with Dr Meriel Watts, an adviser to the Weed Management Advisory Group and a former consultant to the Auckland City Council on these issues, to get her take on the current situation.