Roadside vegetation management was under the spotlight at the January 31 meeting of Nambucca Shire councillors … for both its fees and its practices.
With the policy up for review (and now on public exhibition until mid March) retired councillor Paula Flack asked for comparisons between the costs of roadside maintenance using herbicides (including Roundup Bi-active ‘frog friendly’ glyphosate) versus slope mowing and also the possibility of purchasing the equipment rather than employing a contractor.
In their report council staff compared and costed various scenarios.
The report stated a decision needed to be made whether to continue with the current method of roadside vegetation management using conventional and legal herbicides or change to a higher cost method that uses mechanical or organic vegetation control options that are much more expensive.
Glyphosate is registered for use, within its label constraints/directions, by the APVMA and is vital in the ongoing battle against weeds. Weed spraying is approximately one tenth of the cost of flail mowingMatthew Leibrandt, Manager Infrastructure Services
“The budgetary increase to the roadside vegetation control budget would be in the order of $500,000, and require a report to council when additional funding was required during strong growing seasons.
“Council could also decide to take on additional risk by allowing roadside vegetation to grow above a height that affects sight distance and use mechanical vegetation controls only. The allowable height and the growing season would determine the budget.”
Councillors voted to continue with current practices while staff considered any emerging technologies and monitored their practicality as financially viable alternatives.
Further, staff will suggest a length of road that can be used as a pilot site for the use of nonchemical alternative methods to roadside maintenance and that consideration be given to providing funding from the Environmental Levy to undertake the trial.
Councillors also determined that a control site should be established so results of both sites could be compared. Progress reports would be annually with quarterly photographic surveys for an initial period of three years.
Then there are the proposed fees, which in the case of approved private landholders who want to manage their roadsides themselves, would be:
$500 to cover the chemical no-spray register application, sundry signage and guideposts, as well as an annual fee of $30 to remain on the register, within its fees and charges and advertise the new fees in conjunction with the amended policy.
Ms Flack described this as an “ absolute disgrace”.
“My partner and I have been maintaining our roadside for 35 years – we have done this via an informal agreement that we not get sprayed with the various weeds inspectors over that time.
“Now we are being asked to pay the council $500 for the privilege of doing their job!”
I believe this inflated and unjustified fee proposal is designed to be a disincentive to people to register, as a way to minimise the workload for staff having to create a formal process and manage itPaula Flack
She said most local governments in the region have chemical sensitive registers (with varying criteria) but not one that charges a fee.
“I was told at the meeting that the fees were for special coloured guide posts with a property registration number on them (a spray of fluoro pink paint on the existing guidepost at property boundaries has worked just fine up until now with the contractor being given the property coordinates for their GPS which alarms when they get to it), 'Spray Free' road signs (which when tried a number of years ago by Council were all stolen, vandalized or chucked over the bank) and a property gate sign (which will be useless given that many properties including mine have front gates which are out of view of the road).
“I believe this inflated and unjustified fee proposal is designed to be a disincentive to people to register, as a way to minimise the workload for staff having to create a formal process and manage it.”
The mayor, Rhonda Hoban, said she was hopeful people would send in submissions during the exhibition period.
“We welcome comments and alternative suggestions – good ideas are always needed,” Cr Hoban said.
“Then when the time comes to debate the matter, councillors can weigh all the options up.
“Personally I am keen to understand what the cost savings are on chemicals and man-hours if people are doing the roadside maintenance themselves.”
The draft policy will be on public exhibition from Thursday, February 14 to 4pm on Thursday, March 28 with hard copies available at shire libraries and council’s administrative offices.
Written submissions can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or posted to the General Manager.