Auckland switches to chemical spraying of weeds in parks to save money

A worker sprays hot water to kill weeds in Devonport, where the local board has come up with $50,000 so it can remain a ...

A worker sprays hot water to kill weeds in Devonport, where the local board has come up with $50,000 so it can remain a chemical-free area.

Auckland Council will chemically spray all parks with Roundup unless locals find the funds to go chemical-free.

Despite hiking rates by an average 10 per cent Auckland Council has slashed its spending on parks maintenance and moved to chemical spraying of edges to save money.

Parts of the city that were chemical-free must now dip into their local budgets if they don't want glyphosate, or Roundup, used in their area.

Sunnynook Park is one of 810 North Shore parks affected by reduced maintenance.

Sunnynook Park is one of 810 North Shore parks affected by reduced maintenance.

One of the wards affected is Henderson-Massey in the city's north-west, where glyphosate was not previously used in the parks.

Chairperson Vanessa Neeson said the local board can not afford the $100,000 it would cost to fund non-chemical edge maintenance.

The board's Locally Driven Initiatives fund - one per cent of Auckland Council's total budget which is split between the 21 local boards - was already committed.

"We haven't got any extra money at all to be able to pay for that," Neeson said.

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"The parks will no longer be cut, they will be sprayed. We are very sad about it, but at the end of the day it's up to the public and if they are concerned then they need to make their concerns known so that we can advocate for that money to be put back."

The nearby Upper Harbour Local Board would also not be funding mechanical edging in its area, because it would eat up 48 per cent of its budget, chairwoman Lisa Whyte said.

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"It's not that we want chemical spraying, it's just that the cost means nothing else would get done," she said.

Further north the Hibiscus and Bays Local Board is coughing up $36,000 of its $175,000 discretionary parks funding to keep mechanically cutting its edges.

"People are used to a certain standard of service and particularly with rising rates it's very hard to justify such a drop of standards," chairwoman Julia Parfitt said.

Plans to cut the parks maintenance budget and do more spraying were well flagged during Auckland Council's consultation on its Long Term Plan earlier this year.

The proposed changes came into effect at the start of the new financial year on July 1.

Manager of local and sports parks Jane Aickin said the changes had saved around $1.6 million a year, with the move to chemical edging alone saving $900,000.

However local boards were spending around $230,000 to maintain services in their area, so the net savings were closer to $1.4 million.

Previously there had been a wide range of edging methods used across the Auckland region, she said.

"For instance in most of our central and southern parks chemical edging has been standard practice for a very long time.

"But in pockets around the city, including Devonport-Takapuna and Kaipatiki (on the North Shore), there was a lot of mechanical edging, and boards can choose whether or not they want to pay for an enhanced level of service, and those two boards have chosen to do that."

In Devonport where the local board has come up with $50,000 to maintain its chemical-free status, Toxin Action Group spokesperson Sharon Byron Mckay said the divide between areas was concerning.

"People Auckland-wide should have the right not to be sprayed by chemicals, but it's limited to only the areas that can afford that. I think that's really shocking."

After a presentation from Avondale Community Gardeners, the Whau Local Board in the city's central-west will spend $7000 to keep up non-herbicide weed control in areas such as around the group's organic orchard.

The World Health Organisation has classified glyphosate as "probably carcinogenic in humans".

Under the new parks maintenance regimen lawns were still being mowed on average once a fortnight, but garden maintenance was now being done roughly half as often, the council's Aickin said.

"With mulching and other techniques we can still keep the gardens looking good, but make a good efficiency saving at the same time", she said.

The level of service depended on the type of garden and how high profile it was.

For example, a town centre area such as Todd Triangle in New Lynn would now be mowed 40 times a year as opposed to almost weekly, while garden maintenance visits had been reduced from 40 to 25 a year.

A neighbourhood reserve that may have been cut manually with weed eaters once a month would now be sprayed four times a year, she said.

Auckland Transport maintains the edges of the region's roadside berms, and has stuck with whatever edging methods the old legacy Auckland councils used in their areas.

However its most common weed control method is spraying glyphosate.



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