Councils on herbicide detox


Councils around Perth are bowing to community pressure to reduce the use of the herbicide Glyphosate, also called Roundup, due to growing concerns about its use and safety in public and residential areas.

The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Cancer Research (IARC) in 2015, classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans”.

In a landmark case in 2018 Monsanto, the makers of Roundup, were ordered to pay $US289 million ($A396 million) to a former school groundskeeper dying of cancer, with the jury concluding that Roundup contributed to his disease, leading the way for many other similar cases to since follow suit.

Joondalup resident Michele Kwok felt so concerned about the use of Glyphosate around homes and sensitive environmental areas, she started a petition and Facebook group to pressure the Joondalup local government.

She and several others have been vigilant and vocal on the issue at their local council meetings.

“We know other councils are making it work in their communities, I feel hopeful that after campaigning for over two and half years we are starting see some goodwill towards plans to use alternative methods, particularly around sensitive areas,” Ms Kwok said.

Across all councils, the debate between cost vs effectiveness seemed to be the biggest challenge, with many councils running their own independent trials and research at the cost of rate payers.

Bridging the gaps in trials and information sharing is the Western Australian Local Government Association (WALGA), an independent, membership-based organisation that represents and supports the interests of 139 Local Governments in WA.

WALGA President Karen Chappel said: “WALGA has convened a sector working group looking at Local Governments’ use of herbicides and integrated weed management, to share information on different weed treatments in terms of cost, effectiveness, benefits and limitations.”

Set up in April 2020, the working group reviewing herbicides and alternative methods, includes representatives from only 27 out of the 139 local councils that are members of WALGA.

Councils leading the way on this matter include the City of Stirling, which has been actively working on the issue with the Stirling community since 2014, to reduce and take steps to eradicate the use of Glyphosate over the next four years.

“The City has recommended a program to phase out glyphosate within road reservation making incremental increases of steam over the next four years,” said Biljana Pecanac, the city’s Engineer for Preventative Maintenance Engineering Services.

So far, they have switched to using steam-weeding to treat sensitive areas including schools, childcare centres, nursing homes as well as public access ways including footpaths next to the property line, with plans moving forward to include local and distributor roadside kerbs and islands.

City of South Perth has also been trying to find a balance between Glyphosate and alternative methods to reduce its usage.

City of South Perth Manager of Programs Delivery, Steve Atwell said: “Our objective is to reduce the use of Glyphosate where potential risk of exposure to the community is greatest.”