How we manage weeds on public land

Red Cestrum

Managing weeds on Council land is a complex issue, where no singular approach works for every location and every species of weed.

Council's primary method of treating weeds is mechanical - brush cutting and mulching - with hand-weeding in some cases. 

We continue to use glyphosate and other chemicals, only when there is no viable alternative to chemical-based weed treatment.

Examples of non-chemical weed treatment Council uses and investigates

  • Certified organic herbicides are regularly being tested by our Urban Parks Team.
    So far, we've had limited success in controlling weeds, and the products come at a significantly higher cost, with more frequent spray runs.
  • Weed steaming has been investigated and trialled, but with limited success. Access issues and heavy water use are major issues in this method, and the cost is significantly higher than other treatment options. A Deakin University study found that steam treatment caused alterations to soil microbe populations, reducing microbial diversity, and recommended it’s use on hard surfaces, such as concrete paths and carparks.
  • Microwave weeding technology is being developed by Melbourne University, using microwave heating to destroy weeds and their seeds in the soil. This method is still in development, but appears to be successful and cost-effective in dry locations.
  • Traditional manual works, such as hand-weeding, brush-cutting and reach mowing have increased in our programming, and are effective weed control methods.
  • Goats have been trialled in bushland areas, with limited success due to damage to native vegetation. This option has been great for use in sites with heavy weed loads and less native vegetation present. However, many locations are not suitable due to access and fencing requirements.
  • We're also investigating biological weed control and burning, and are always investigating options to manage weeds more effectively.

Examples of when we use chemicals to treat weeds

  • Large woody weeds, such as Sycamore Maple and English Holly, require targeted chemical treatment on stumps when cut down, otherwise they can grow back into a sprouting thicket and become more difficult to manage.
  • Climbing vines, particularly English Ivy and Japanese Honeysuckle. require cutting and painting to prevent choking or smothering of native plants and trees.
  • Some grassy weeds such as Couch and Kikuyu, which root hard to the ground, are difficult to remove by hand. We use chemical-based treatments to dispose of these weeds and prevent them from encroaching into bushland, playgrounds and garden beds.

When using glyphosate, Council staff always adhere to label instructions and guidelines from WorkSafe and the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA).

There is careful consideration of weather conditions, signage for the public and timing of application and dilution of weed treatments, to ensure no chemical contact with the community or with Council staff.

To ensure these guidelines are met, we regularly audit staff and contractors applying chemicals and provide regular, extensive training and familiarisation with personal protective equipment (PPE) and relevant Safe Work Method Statements.

Glyphosate is deemed safe to use according to label instructions.

However, we're committed to reducing chemical use wherever possible and will proactively investigate, trial and research alternatives as they become available.

We encourage community members with more questions to contact our Weed Management Officer by email or by calling 1300 368 333 during business hours.