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Auckland Council reviews regional approach to weed management

Published: 17 September 2020

The council manages weeds and edges on footpaths, berms and the kerb and channel in the urban road corridor and, since a change last year, it has been managing weeds in the urban road corridor on behalf of Auckland Transport.

General Manager Community Facilities Rod Sheridan says the current approach to weed management in the road corridor varies across Auckland, reflecting the continuation of different legacy council approaches prior to amalgamation.

“Edging and weed control is managed in many ways – plant-based or synthetic herbicides to combinations with hot water and steam – across local board areas and in some cases within local board areas.

“We are currently undertaking a review of how we deliver weed control in the urban road corridor. The review looks at the effectiveness, levels of herbicide and water use, carbon emissions and costs of different approaches, and the potential advantages of a standard approach across the region.  

“As we have signalled for many years, we are committed to reducing our use of synthetic herbicides like glyphosate.

“No changes or decisions have yet been made,” says Mr Sheridan. “We are currently meeting with all local boards to present our findings on current methodologies and to seek their feedback on a standardised approach to weed management across the region.”

Review process for regional approach to weed management

As part of the regional review[1], the council has looked at methodologies for delivering weed management in road corridors, including synthetic herbicide[2] (glyphosate), plant-based herbicides and thermal approaches (steam, hot water, foam).

There are currently only three local boards that are not using glyphosate in the road corridor (this does not include pest plant control): Albert-Eden, Puketapapa and part of Waitemata.

The recommended weed management approach for local board review is for a combination of plant-based herbicide with spot spraying of glyphosate for difficult to manage weeds. 

This is estimated to lead to a reduction in glyphosate, carbon emissions and water usage across the region while achieving effective weed control. The recommendation is expected to be achievable within existing budgets.

The evaluation criteria for the review’s recommendations include environmental impacts, community input, the council’s commitment to reduce carbon emissions in Te Tāruke-ā-Tāwhiri: Auckland's Climate Plan and the objectives of the council weed management policy for effective, efficient, and sustainable outcomes.

The review also takes into consideration feedback from a 2019 People’s Panel. The survey, with 5686 respondents, shows 66 per cent of respondants stated they ‘care’ about the weeds on our footpaths and kerbs.

Forty three per cent of residents use synthetic herbicide (e.g. glyphosate) for weed management on their own property. Synthetic herbicide (e.g. glyphosate) was the least preferred method for weed management in the road corridor by 52 per cent of respondents. Nineteen per cent of respondents would be willing to pay more for council to use alternatives to synthetic herbicide, a further 36 per cent say they 'maybe' would be willing, while 42 per cent say they are not willing to pay extra.

Read a copy of the report that is being considered by all 19 local boards here.  

Next steps

As part of the review local boards are providing feedback on the recommended approach to weed management in the kerb and channel and footpaths, and to rank their priorities for weed management in the road corridor.

Once the feedback is received, it will be collated and included in a report to the Environment and Climate Change Committee on 12 November 2020. There will be opportunity for groups to present input at the Environment and Climate Change Committee.

There is no change proposed or being discussed about weed management at our parks and reserves.

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[1] The scope of the review and recommendations is only for the urban road corridor and does not include rural areas. This reflects the differences in population, roading infrastructure and land use in rural areas. Waiheke and Aotea Local Boards are not included as they are not part of Project Streetscapes (which did not include the Hauraki Gulf Islands).

[2] Auckland Council’s agrichemical use is guided by the New Zealand Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) in their role as the regulator of hazardous substances in New Zealand. The EPA gathers information from multiple credible sources when deciding whether substances are safe to use. The EPA has granted approval for the use of glyphosate-containing substances in accordance with the EPA code of practice. Should the EPA change their position on glyphosate, the council would respond appropriately.

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Note: no-spray register

Auckland Council has a no-spray register, which anyone can join to opt-out of weed control with agrichemicals on the berm or park boundary of your property.

Read more: Environment

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