Children dance on weed-killer; Auckland Council says it's perfectly safe

People danced barefoot at Auckland Council's Music in Parks at Armour Bay in west Auckland.
SUPPLIED

People danced barefoot at Auckland Council's Music in Parks at Armour Bay in west Auckland.

Anti-spray activists are livid at Auckland Council contractors for spraying a controversial weed-killer the day before a concert.

Glyphosate was sprayed on the park at Armour Bay beach in West Auckland the day before a Music in Parks event on February 25. 

World Health Organisation report from 2015 classified glyphosate as "probably carcinogenic",  it also said there was "strong evidence for genotoxicity".

People enjoying the Music in Parks concert at Armour Bay, which featured musicians Soul Samba, Niko Ne Zna and Surrey Boudit.
SUPPLIED

People enjoying the Music in Parks concert at Armour Bay, which featured musicians Soul Samba, Niko Ne Zna and Surrey Boudit.

But, New Zealand's Environment Protection Authority reviewed the use of glyphosate in the wake of the WHO report, concluding in August 2016 that the chemical was "unlikely to be genotoxic or carcinogenic in humans".

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Beatrice Pritchard lives next to Armour Bay and attended the Music in Parks event.

The Environmental Protection Authority says that when spraying glyphosate people should wear protective clothing, as per ...
SIMON MAUDE/FAIRFAX NZ

The Environmental Protection Authority says that when spraying glyphosate people should wear protective clothing, as per labels, and wash hands, face and clothing afterwards.

She had talked with a council contractor before the event and was assured mechanical methods would be used – but when she turned up she saw grass with dark green patches.

"I was horrified to see dogs, barefoot children and barefoot dancers stepping repeatedly on the sprayed areas, some people even spread their picnic cloths on top of them," Pritchard said.

"My protests to the council staff responsible for the concert fell on deaf ears and I was not permitted to make an announcement warning people. Instead I was cast in the role of a weirdo."

Auckland Council manager of health and safety for quality assurance and environment Mike Tucker confirmed the park was sprayed with glyphosate on February 24.

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But he disputed that there was a concern over the chemical.

"Park users should not have any concerns over the safety of visiting a park after glyphosate application has taken place as the material safety data sheet for the agrichemical applied does not require a non-contact re-entry period."

"Controls are in place to safeguard people and the environment."

But Hana Blackmore from anti-spray group Weed Management Advisory is appalled a precautionary approach is not being taken while scientists are still arguing over health effects.

"All council parks are smoke free. They should be chemical free as well," she said.

The Environment Protection Authority's website says people should follow advice on the product label when using glyphosate.

It says the area should also be cleared of pets and children and they should be kept away until the spray has dried – or for the time indicated on the label.

Glyphosate should also not be sprayed close to water, such as streams, rivers, lakes or ponds, or if rain is predicted within the next 24 hours.

People spraying should wear protective clothing, and wash hands, face and clothing afterwards.

Auckland Council voted in 2015 to save money by the "increased use of spraying instead of mechanical edging in parks" in its 10-year budget. It did this despite its 2013 Weed Management Policy to "minimise the use of agricultural chemicals".

The 2013 policy says the council has obligations to ensure the safety of the public, and that public health and safety can be maximised by using "non-chemical techniques whenever they are available and effective".

Councillor John Watson has said the savings to ratepayers of the increase in spraying is about $900,000 a year.

Last year a 3696-signature petition was handed to the council, and Mayor Len Brown said the council's weed management policy would be reviewed.

The EPA website says glyphosate is perhaps the most common herbicide used in New Zealand, and has been used since 1976.

 - Stuff

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