A regional group is warning that Auckland Council is sleepwalking to a future where toxic chemicals return to the city streets.
The Weed Management Advisory is alarmed that in the Supercity reorganisation responsibility for roadside weed management was handed over to Auckland Transport without any overarching policy being set by Council.
Dr Meriel Watts of the Advisory said today that if policy is left to the council controlled organisation there is nothing to prevent them harmonising weed spraying across the region using the worst of the legacy city’s policies.
“This would mean the return of toxic herbicides like Roundup to Auckland’s streets, which have been successfully managed non-chemically for fourteen years.”
Dr Watts said that Auckland has just been through two years of plans to lay out a visionary eco-city of the future, but not one of those plans – including the current final Long Term Plan – even considered this policy worthy of mention.
“But this is not just a little housekeeping item” she says. “It is a policy that has a huge impact on people’s health and wellbeing as well as the environment. It is vital that Councillors wake up to this imminent and disastrous loss of control and look at policy additions and amendments before it is too late”.
The Advisory which was formed two years ago in response to public concern about this very issue, said that Councillors had reassured them throughout plan submission hearings last month that Council sets policy and Auckland Transport implements it. But recent media statements from Auckland Transport contradict this, and confirm the group’s fears.
Auckland Transport Spokesperson, Sharon Hunter, has informed local media that Transport are currently reviewing the practices of the previous councils and “from there we will be creating a policy for weed control for the Auckland Region.”
Dr Watts said today that conversations over the last two weeks led the Advisory to believe that that policy would indeed be a return to Roundup on the roadsides.
“Not only will this be a terrible step backwards, but it means that something that is of fundamental importance to the community has been effectively removed from democratic input, to an arms-length organisation that is set to overturn something that the community fought a long hard battle for.”
Advisory member, Hana Blackmore agreed and said that it was alarming that this late in the day most councillors appeared to know that weed management had devolved to Transport, but did not realise that policy decisions had also defaulted to the CCO.
“Their expectations were that Council would be preparing the region-wide harmonisation policy for weeds and that transport would then simply get on with applying it” said Blackmore. “But they are wrong. If this issue is not looked at urgently by Councillors before the Long Term Plan is finalised, then policy-making will be out of their hands. And that is not right.”
The Weed Management Advisory submission to the LTP proposed that Council simply adopt the existing legacy Auckland City non-chemical weed policy plan, and over time, roll it out across the region. They point out that this is both pragmatic and financially attractive.
Dr Watts who sat on the Auckland City working group to develop the weed policy and is one of the authors of the final policy points out that the objectives are still sound. “With no need to reinvent the wheel, implementation would be cost effect and considerably enhance the environmental health of the region as well as protect public health and community peace of mind.”