0 Turf troubles tipped after ban

Taranaki's sports fields could return to the mud and slush of years of old in the wake of the ban on a chemical earthworm killer.

The claim comes from the New Zealand Sports Turf Institute which had recommended the use of the insecticide endosulfan on Taranaki's cricket pitches, golf courses and bowling greens.

However, Environmental Risk Management Authority (Erma) announced yesterday it had revoked approvals for the insecticide endosulfan and prohibited its importation, manufacture and use in New Zealand. The authority began assessing endosulfan in June following controversy over its safety for uses such as killing earth worms on public sports fields.

The chemical has already been banned in 55 countries.

A disappointed NZSTI sports turf adviser David Ormsby, from Hamilton, said yesterday the institute had made a submission to Erma in an effort to retain the insecticide and there was now nothing the institute could do about the ruling. "We will just have to live with that.

"It probably means fields will be less available in future because there will be a greater risk of closure due to them being too wet."

Taranaki, with its fertile soils and regular rain, would be particularly at risk, he said. Because of this it was a "reasonable user" of endosulfan.

Endosulfan was the most effective and cheapest insecticide on the market to get rid of worms. There was nothing similar on the market which was as efficient, he said.

The problem would be caused by an increase in worm casts which were "gooey" and therefore prevented drainage, Mr Ormsby said.

"From the community's point of view there's the likelihood they will have to deal with poorly draining sports fields."

He predicted there would also be a cost in replacing higher tech sand carpet fields because their life would be halved. With the use of endosulfan they should last 15 years.

Having poorer fields would mean sportspeople would be limited in developing their skills. While they were benefiting from firm and dry sportsfields today, they were likely to become soft and muddier.

"They won't be unplayable but they will not be as good. We can just do the best we can."

New Plymouth District Council parks manager Mark Bruhn said the council would now have to re-think what to use on the small number of venues where endosulfan had been used, such as the Pukekura Park cricket pitch.

"We don't keep any stock so there will be no problem with disposal."

As far as he was aware no staff had been adversely affected, Mr Bruhn said.

Erma decision-making committee chairwoman Helen Atkins said the level of adverse effects to the environment and human health and to New Zealand's international relationships outweighed any positive effects.

The committee had heard endosulfan had benefits as an effective and relatively inexpensive insecticide, she said.

However, endosulfan is acutely toxic to humans at high level and very toxic to aquatic life.

It had the potential to cause adverse effects to workers dealing with the chemical and lasting damage to the environment.

Its use for earth worm control at sports grounds and airports was not endorsed by the product's suppliers, Erma said. The decision to ban it was made after an exhaustive reassessment process, which involved research, public submissions and a public hearing.

Green Party MPs Sue Kedgley and Catherine Delahunty expressed delight at the ban. "Endosulfan has been linked to breast cancer, birth defects, behavioural conditions and Parkinson's disease, as well as adverse effects on the central nervous system. Long-term exposure has been linked to damage to the kidneys, liver and reproductive systems," Ms Delahunty said.

Ms Kedgley said 18 councils around New Zealand had used the pesticide to kill earth worms at sports grounds.

"During the Erma reassessment process we discovered that this was just the tip of the iceberg. Private contractors were using it on bowling greens, croquet lawns, golf courses, and other private sports fields."

Source:- Taranaki Daily News

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