Far North environmental groups are urging members to sign up to a Far North District Council no-spray register ahead of the next round of roadside spraying.
The use of herbicides on roadside weeds has been a hot topic since a spraying operation late last year, funded by the government's Covid-19 recovery programme. Landcare groups in Waimate North and Russell said the spraying appeared to be indiscriminate, with community-planted pohutukawa targeted while invasive weeds such as pampas grass were untouched. Mapou, a native shrub, came in for a particular hammering.
A public notice in local newspapers, announcing a fresh round of spraying in the southern half of the district starting on January 22 and continuing for a month, sparked fresh concerns.
Russell Landcare chairman David McKenzie said he was urging locals to be proactive by signing up to the council's no-spray register and putting signs out on their verges if they had concerns. He also questioned the fire risk posed by dead vegetation and the ''blanket use'' of glyphosate. Apart from health and environmental concerns, traces of the herbicide found in honey were already causing difficulties for the country's exporters.
Council infrastructure manager Andy Finch said the current spray programme was part of normal road berm weed eradication carried out twice a year, targeting weeds within 1.5m of the road berm to keep stormwater drains clear and make sure sightlines and road signs weren't obstructed.
The spraying conducted late last year targeted noxious plants and covered a 2m-wide strip from the road edge and up to 4.5m in height.
That was a one-off programme, funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment as part of its Covid-19 worker redeployment package.
The contractor carrying out the current spraying work was the one normally used by the Northland Transportation Alliance, not the one engaged under the Covid-19 scheme.
Contractors would not spray berms where 'no spray' signs were visible and householders agreed to keep them clear of weeds.
The current spraying round does not include state highways, which are the responsibility of Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency.
To find the register go to https://www.fndc.govt.nz/Our-Services/Transport/Roads/Vegetation-mowing-and-spraying
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