The council’s decision to ban the release of balloons at council events and on council reserves has been welcomed by action group No Balloon Release Australia.
Mayor Kristy McBain’s recommendation followed a similar decision by Eurobodalla Shire earlier this year.
Her motion passed 6-2, with councillors Russell Fitzpatrick and Tony Allen against, and Robyn Bain absent.
“It is wonderful news that council has taken up Eurobodalla’s challenge,” Bermagui spokesperson for No Balloon Release Australia Karen Joynes said.
“Education does not always work. By council banning the release of balloons, it is setting an example and telling the community this is a serious issue.”
The Sapphire Coast Marine Discovery Centre has also thrown its support behind the ban at council events and on council reserves.
Discovery centre manager Kerryn Wood said it was a fabulous initiative she hoped would spread “everywhere”.
Ms Wood said the ban was especially important for coastal communities, with towns such as Eden dependent on fishing and tourism.
“The last things we want cruise ship visitors to see are marine wildlife or birds entangled in plastic or washed up dead from ingesting it,” she said.
The discovery centre was instrumental in gathering signatures on a petition presented to State Parliament.
Ms Joynes said balloon debris is not inconsequential.
“By using Tangaroa Blue’s Australian Marine Debris Initiative database, I informed the council meeting that in my 28 reports over three years, 260 balloons – remnant, whole or burst – were collected from just one kilometre section of beach.
“Releasing balloons should be seen as littering, as any released balloon will come back to Earth somewhere, and littering laws should be enforced.”
Ms Joynes emphasised helium is the key to the problem, as without helium, balloons could not be released.
“With this grassroots action by local government, we are hopeful a national ban on the use of helium to inflate balloons will eventuate, which is the aim of No Balloon Release Australia”.
A petition by NBRA on banning helium use can be found here.