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Council to consider banning balloon release at Council events or on Council managed reserves

In Mayor Innes' preamble to a motion that is coming up to Council on Tuesday Feb 14th that will ban the release of balloons at Council events and in Council managed reserves she offers: "Council has been active in raising awareness in the community about the effects balloon

releases have on the natural environment, particularly the marine environment, and the ways by which the impact can be managed.

Balloon release has an adverse impact on the environment and continues to be an item of litter that is identified in cleanups. Balloons and the associated debris can travel long distances and cause negative impacts, particularly in our waterways.

I am seeking the support of my fellow Councillors’ for a ‘no balloon release’ policy at all Council reserves and events, formalised via the inclusion of a ‘no balloon release’ provision in Council’s Events Guidelines. Collaboration with neighbouring council areas to ban the release of balloons will further reinforce this policy.


1.The release of balloons be banned at Council events and in Council managed reserves.

2.The inclusion of a ‘no balloon release’ and sustainability provisions in Council’s Events

Guidelines be effected.

3.Council collaborate with neighbouring council areas and Canberra Region Joint

Organisation to support banning the release of balloons.

4. Council advocate for a State and National education program on the issues associated

with balloon release in relation to littering and helium usage, and encourage the banning

of balloon release.

The BACKGROUND to the motion:

Approximately 95% of released balloons rise to 8,500 metres where they expand in the cold

and thin air, become brittle and shatter into spaghetti-like pieces that then sink back to earth.

The remaining 5% do not reach a high enough altitude to burst and therefore, drift with the

wind hundreds of kilometres before descending back to the land or the sea. Due to predominant winds and currents, balloons and other marine debris often accumulate in

predictable areas, overlapping with the foraging and nesting areas of marine animals.

The impact of litter reaching our marine environment is well known and documented with 663

species affected worldwide. Even balloons that are classified as ‘biodegradable latex’ can last

months or even years before breaking down, and pose a threat to marine life during that time.

Balloon release has an adverse impact on the environment and continues to be an item of litter that is identified in cleanups. Balloons and the associated debris can travel long distances and cause negative impacts, particularly in our waterways.

The impacts from balloons on marine life include deformity and loss of limbs, internal injuries and blockages, and death through starvation, suffocation and strangulation. In November 2000 the NSW Government enacted the Protection of the Environment Operations Amendment(Balloons) Act 2000. Since that date, it is illegal to release 20 or more gas-inflated balloons at or about the same time. It is deemed an aggravated offence where a person releases more than 100 balloons. There are a number of exceptions to these offences, for example whether the balloons are released specifically for scientific purposes.Every balloon released is littering and can be subject to the enforcement of litter laws. The New South Wales legislation is largely not monitored nor enforced, with balloons being released on some commemorative occasions, and the provision of balloons as promotional signage or giveaways by community groups and businesses. Whilst balloon release is not a major or obvious litter item in Eurobodalla Shire, it does however negatively impact on our environment, and in turn has the potential to impact adversely on our economy which has a strong dependence on the environment. Council has proactively engaged in understanding the issues with balloon releases, raised awareness of the issues with the broader community, conducted cleanups and specifically targeted balloon release events. Balloons are often used for celebrations and the emphasis has been on encouraging alternatives to balloon release and raising the awareness of the negative impacts of balloon release. In this regard, Council has proactively worked with volunteers and community groups. There is strong support from the broader community and a recent petition advocating for ‘no balloon release’ has been active in Bega Valley Shire and Eurobodalla Shire. Council can play a more active role in encouraging a ‘no balloon release’ in Eurobodalla Shire by formalising a ‘no balloon release’ at all Council reserves and events, in addition to collaboration with neighbouring Council areas to ban the release of balloons. This proactive approach will ensure that Eurobodalla Shire’s natural environment for which the South Coast of NSW is renown, does not contribute to balloon litter to our local environment and marine environment across the world. Source Editors Note: This is not the first time Eurobodalla have been at the forefront of initiating balloon bans. Did you know that it is illegal to release 20 or more gas-inflated balloons at or about the same time. Did you know that this was because of the Balloon Bill of 2000 that came about by the lobbying of Bethany Henderson, 11 years old, of Tuross Head. Bethany was sick of watching the release of thousands of balloons at sporting events and functions knowing the balloons were all destined to pop and then drift down to end up in our waterways and oceans. In 2000 Bethany Henderson of Jellicoe Road, Tuross Head watched on as her balloon banning campaign was passed as a Bill in the NSW Parliament. Bethany had written to then Premier Bob Carr and very clearly described at-home experiments with balloons, saltwater and sunlight showed balloons took months to break down in the environment and attached strings didn't break down at all. The trend then was to release of thousands of balloons at sporting events, celebrations and functions and no-one seemed to think about where all the balloons and string would end up but Bethany had seen the results washed up on beaches. According to Ms PUTT (Denison - 2R) in 2001 "She was "fobbed off when she made approaches about trying to stop mass balloon releases during the upcoming Sydney Olympics at that time and was told that the balloons biodegraded and there was no need for concern, she actually went ahead and did her own experiments in the backyard with balloons to see how long it did in fact take for them to break down and to biodegrade. She discovered that they were very persistent and that there was indeed still a need to undertake this course of action." Source Nobody wanted to listen to her because she was "just a kid" and there were experts saying her tests were backyard but she told everyone in Tuross that would listen that "a balloon is a balloon, saltwater is saltwater and sunlight is sunlight" and that is exactly what she told Bob Carr and, he listened. Of interest is that the Tasmanian Government debated the same issue the following year and it was turned down. ENVIRONMENT PROTECTION (RELEASE OF BALLOONS) BILL 2001 (No. 126) This is an extract from Hansard only. Hansard extracts are reproduced with permission from the Parliament of Tasmania. Here is the concluding speech on the proposed Bill prior to voting: Mr McMANUS (Franklin) :To our young planet protectors, I would say to you that one area that is of concern to the Opposition, and I am sure to the Government, is the issue of plastics finding their way in significant quantities into our sea environments. One of the biggest contributing factors to that is what goes down our suburban gutters and our stormwater drains and out into our marine environment. That is an area where we know problems are created. There are other behaviours that we know do contribute in a potentially serious way to pollution of our coastal waterways and estuaries and that should be addressed. With the best of intentions, I do not believe that it is necessary to go to the step of passing a law which singles out balloons as a major contributor to the harmful effect on the health of ecosystems or marine systems. What I am saying is that if I were to be arguing changes that should be made in terms of the behaviour and the way we use balloons, I would be wanting to let people know that the things they attach to balloons, like strings, like plastics, that may be associated with balloons that are released into the air, those materials themselves can be harmful, there is no doubt about that. They do not have the same properties as latex. In fact those people who sell balloons will tell you that they should be hand-tied and they should not involve the use of other materials and that there are responsible ways of using balloons if they are going to be released into the atmosphere. We should be using legislation when we need to use legislation and this is a question at the end of the day about whether or not we need a law or whether or not what we need to do is provide decent education for the wider community about what should occur and what should not occur when it comes to the use of balloons. I have to say, as a Liberal, there is one other aspect to this and that is that if you are going to assert that, because a particularly good lobbyist changed a law, that change was based on scientific fact, simply because they were a lobbyist, you should be doing more in terms of scrutiny before you simply follow suit because there are people's livelihoods at stake, there are jobs at stake, there is an industry that has a reputation for providing a product which has not been shown to create an environmental problem in this State and therefore the Opposition will not be supporting it. The House divided - Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER - As the 'Ayes' have no support, in accordance with standing order 192 I declare the 'Noes' have it. It will be interesting to hear the debate from our own Eurobodalla Councillors on Tuesday 14th, 2017.

Above: Councillor Anthony Mayne with his find of spent balloons from Broulee Beach

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