Air Raid on Bitou Bush

Great Lakes Council is planning its annual Bitou Bush aerial spraying program due to take place later this month.

Council's Noxious and Environmental Weeds Officer, Mr Terry Inkson said, “It is scheduled for the program to be undertaken in late-June, covering several areas on the coastal strip including Nine Mile Beach Tuncurry; Godwin and Mathers Islands on Wallis Lake and Sand Bar Beach / Bald Head at Pacific Palms.”

Spraying is undertaken during the main flowering period of Bitou Bush in autumn and winter.  At this time of year the plant is in its most vulnerable state and only very low concentrations of herbicide are needed to effectively treat the plants.

Impacts to the tougher native plants are significantly reduced, with them being able to withstand the low rates of herbicide applied during a dormant stage in the native’s growth cycle.

Previous efforts over the past decade have seen a 96% reduction of Bitou Bush at Bennetts Beach, Jimmys Beach, Yacaaba Peninsula and Winda Woppa Reserves at Hawks Nest. These fantastic results have meant that no aerial spraying is required in those areas this year, so Council is directing its focus to on ground efforts to manage remaining individual plants and seedling regrowth.

Aerial spraying herbicides from helicopters for the treatment of large tracts of Bitou infested land is an effective management technique that has been long used by land management agencies across the state.

Great Lakes Council participates in this cooperative and coordinated program annually on the Mid North Coast from Kempsey to the Great Lakes Region.

The program is carried out following recommendations contained in the ‘best practice guidelines for aerial spraying of Bitou Bush in New South Wales’ published by the Department of Environment and Conservation”.

Other participating agencies include Mid North Coast Weeds Coordinating Committee, Kempsey, Port Macquarie Hastings and Greater Taree City Councils, National Parks and Wildlife Service, NSW Trade and Investments—Crown Lands, Hunter Local Land Services and local community based working groups.

“Aerial spraying is one facet of a comprehensive integrated program that includes other techniques such as physical removal, cut and paint, spot spraying and bush regeneration” Mr Inkson said.

This year, Council is planning to trial a method of aerial spraying at Sandbar Beach utilising the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles.  Although these smaller unmanned helicopters are currently bound by the same regulations as full size helicopters, they allow for a reduction to the amount of staff needed running a project and offer a more refined delivery process.