Eurobodalla Shire has issued a challenge to other councils to follow its lead and ban balloon releases at public events.
Eurobodalla Mayor Liz Innes put forward a recommendation at Tuesday’s meeting to minimise the environmental impacts of balloons by banning their release at council events and in council-managed reserves.
Cr Innes said balloons caused significant harm to the natural environment, including to marine life.
“I congratulate this council for stepping up and defending our environment,” Cr Innes said.
“We’re challenging other councils to follow our lead.
“This proactive approach will ensure that Eurobodalla’s Shire’s natural environment, for which the South Coast is renowned, does not contribute to balloon litter here or across the world.”
Approximately 95 per cent of released balloons burst in the atmosphere and litter small pieces of plastic to the earth. The remaining five per cent do not reach a high enough altitude to burst and instead drift hundreds of kilometres before descending to land or sea.
Cr Innes said that even so-called ‘biodegradable’ balloons could last months or even years before they break down, causing harm in the meantime.
“Marine turtles, fish, seabirds, whales and even farm animals get entangled in the strings or swallow the balloon which then blocks the guts so that the animal will starve,” Cr Innes said.
“No child would release a balloon if they thought it would kill a turtle or other animal.”
Council will now advocate for state and national bans on balloon releases, as well as for programs on the issues associated with balloon releases, including littering and helium usage. It will also collaborate with neighbouring council areas and the Canberra Region Joint Organisation to support banning the release of balloons.
Council will continue to raise awareness of the negative impacts of balloon release and encourage alternatives to releasing balloons for celebrations and commemorations, such as bubble blowing, bunting, streamers, banners and flags, candles, or native tree planting.
Balloon petition going to Parliament
Meanwhile, Bermagui anti-balloon activist Karen Joynes is continuing her fight against helium balloons.
Ms Joynes and other activists have organised a petition calling on a national ban on helium balloons that now has 4700 signatures.
The formal petition is to be presented to the House of Representatives Petitions Committee on February 27.
“Common comments on the petition include releasing balloons is the same as littering,” she said.
“Beach debris collectors and divers find many balloons with plastic closures and non-biodegradable ribbons attached.
“Wildlife carers regularly find balloons inside dead or poorly animals and other animals entangled with plastics and ribbons.
“People have signed from UK, USA, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Japan and France, which shows the global concern over the impact of balloons.”
Ms Joynes said the Federal Government’s Draft Threat Abatement Plan is also open for comment, and she plans on doing a submission, and mentions balloons on pages 5, 28 and 29:
She said she was disappointed that a shop in Narooma was still selling helium bottles and helium filled balloons.
“Apparently the shop assistant there asks people to not release helium balloons,” she said. “Sadly, according to the employee, one woman bought 60 and released them all with no consequence, despite the advice and in contravention of the NSW law.”