Bega Valley Shire bans balloon releases at Council events and on Council reserves

On Wednesday 15 March, Bega Valley Shire Council took up Eurobodalla’s challenge and banned the release of balloons at Council events and on Council reserves on a Mayoral recommendation.

Last year, Council adopted a policy of education about the impact of released balloons, but since then, there has been a lot more information about the impact of released balloons. Mayor Kristy McBain was interested in taking up Eurobodalla’s challenge but The Zoos Victoria’s #bubblesnotballoons was the clincher, and the Mayoral recommendation came soon afterwards.

At the Council meeting, Karen Joynes, from No Balloon Release Australia, thanked the Mayor for her recommendation and spoke of the need for such a ban. Using Tangaroa Blue’s AMDI Database records, she told the meeting that, in 28 reports over three years she had collected 260 balloons – remnant, whole and burst – from just one kilometre of beach. The Shire’s coastline is 225 kilometres long. She also stressed the need to address the helium issue, as without helium, balloon releases would not occur. Since the NSW EPA introduced the “up to 20” limit 20 years ago (after very strong lobbying by the late Lance Ferris from Australian Seabird Rescue), helium use has become ubiquitous and easily available. Mass releases are all too common.

At the meeting, two Councillors spoke about learning a great deal about marine pollution issues, including balloons, at the Sapphire Coast Marine Discovery Centre, which hosted a forum last year. Tangaroa Blue’s Heidi Taylor spoke at the forum. Education is the key!

Two councillors voted against the recommendation, citing the growing number of restrictions on people’s activities and loss of freedom of choice.

Yet balloon releases are akin to littering, which is illegal.

With growing local government grassroots action on released balloons, perhaps we will attain a national ban on releasing helium balloons in the name of improved marine protection.

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