Blenheim's Seymour Square stays glyphosate-free for 18 months

2:46 pm on 8 February 2022

By Maia Hart

Blenheim's Seymour Square has been glyphosate-free for 18 months after councillors challenged staff to decrease its use in Marlborough parks.

Seymour Square, Blenheim.

Seymour Square, Blenheim. Photo: LDR / Chloe Ranford

Pollard Park is the next in line, with plans to cut the weedkiller's use in half.

The council first reviewed its glyphosate use in 2020, after Green Party Kaikōura convenor Glenda Barnes submitted to the council's annual plan in 2019, asking to have glyphosate banned from public spaces.

Councillor Jamie Arbuckle said he originally wanted glyphosate, commonly found in herbicide Roundup, banned after her submission, but had reconsidered, and floated the "achievable" goal of removing it from parks and reserves.

Marlborough District Council parks and open spaces manager Jane Tito reported to councillors at an assets and services meeting last Thursday, Seymour Square in central Blenheim, had been sprayed with an organic herbicide for 18 months.

Previously, the council used about a litre a year at Seymour Square, which was a small fraction of its overall parks and reserves use at 270 litres per year in 2020.

Tito said gardeners did, however, need to use a "Grazon herbicide" sparingly at Seymour Square to manage some "hardier" weeds in front of the clock tower.

She said they were now focused on reducing glyphosate use at Pollard Park by 50 percent by 2026, where it was used to tackle weeds in a range of areas, including gravel pathways, tree rings, carparks, and fence lines.

Pollard Park, Blenheim.

Pollard Park, Blenheim. Photo: Stuff / Scott Hammond via LDR

Tito said slightly less than 10 litres of glyphosate was used at the park each year.

Glyphosate - the most widely used weedkiller in the world - was classified as "probably carcinogenic to humans" by the International Agency for Cancer Research (IARC) in 2015, but was later reviewed by New Zealand's Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) in 2016 as safe to use. It has been used in New Zealand for more than 40 years.

A "comprehensive review" in February 2020 showed the Marlborough District Council used close to 3000 litres of glyphosate a year across all departments.

A new nationwide study tested wells for glyphosate for the first time in 2018, and water in Marlborough did not return positive results.

A report prepared for the assets and services meeting said the organic-based spray the council now used was at a similar cost to the glyphosate, however needed to be used more frequently to "maintain the level of service expected at this park".

It said staff would continuously review the use of chemicals and monitor new products that may be introduced to bring in a more eco-friendly system.

"It should also be noted that while staff are looking at introducing changes to the spray use at Pollard Park, it may require a more labour-intensive management to ensure levels of service are met," the report said.

Marlborough district councillor Jamie Arbuckle.

Marlborough district councillor Jamie Arbuckle. Photo: Stuff / Ricky Wilson via LDR

Arbuckle on Thursday challenged council staff to identify other areas, not just Pollard Park, that could also be glyphosate-free.

"There's obviously areas where we're less likely to even need to use glyphosate, so identify them and maybe report back to this committee," Arbuckle said.

"I think generally [it] is going to cost more ... but in a real sense, in the scheme of council, eliminating glyphosate is actually probably well worth it.

"Once we actually get to zero use, get a sign, so the public knows that area is glyphosate free. But it is great work, and I actually support the direction we're going in."

He said he would like to see Pollard Park's glyphosate reduction happen sooner.

This was backed by councillor Michael Fitzpatrick who asked why it needed to take so long, if they already had a "working system" at Seymour Square.

But Tito said they did not want to be "rushing it" and risk "ruining parts of the grounds".

Tito agreed to report back to council annually about just how much glyphosate was being used in the council's parks and reserves.

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