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Chemicals and pesticides

Notification of pesticide use by public authorities in public places

icon - notification The Pesticides Regulation 2009 requires public authorities, such as local councils and government agencies, to notify the community, in accordance with a notification plan, when they use or allow the use of pesticides in public places that are owned or controlled by the public authority.

These rules are based on the principle that people who live and work in an area have a basic right to know when public places in the area are treated with pesticides. Notifying people about pesticide applications means they can make informed decisions, for example, parents with young children may choose to delay a visit to the playground if they know pesticides have been applied that day.

Notifying members of the public about pesticide use before it happens does not mean that they can prevent the use of pesticides in the area. The aim of notification is to allow people to choose to reduce their exposure to pesticides if they wish. Notifying the community is now internationally recognised as best practice in pesticides management.

This page explains what public authorities need to do to comply with the requirements. It explains how to consult with the community when developing or revising a pesticide use notification plan to suit local needs.

What is a pesticide use notification plan?

A pesticide use notification plan describes where a public authority uses pesticides and the steps it will take to notify people about its pesticide use in those places. It must be prepared by a public authority (including a local council) in consultation with the local community. Historically, many public authorities notified their communities when they used pesticides in the area, for example through advertising or letterbox drops.

What notification is being provided by NSW public authorities?

There are a number of methods of notification for differing levels of pesticide use across NSW. Most public authorities, including local governments and State government agencies, provide a schedule of pesticide application on their public website. In most cases, authorities will contact owners by phone or mail to notify them of an upcoming pesticide application.

Sensitive site owners receive additional notification in most cases, prior to the application of pesticides. This means that they can choose to avoid exposure to pesticides, especially if there are children or sensitive people on the site.

If you are a property owner and would like to know which pesticides are used on public land, you should first check the website of the public authority responsible for that land and read the Pesticide Use Notification Plan. The plan provides details for a contact person, who you can speak to if you have further questions.

What does the law say?

Public authorities, including local councils, are not permitted to use pesticides in prescribed public places unless a notification plan has been prepared and notice has been given in accordance with the plan.

Public authorities cannot use or allow the use of pesticides unless a notification plan has been:

  • developed in consultation with the community
  • finalised, advertised and made publicly available.

The community must be notified of pesticide use in the way the finalised plan describes.

What information must a pesticide use notification plan include?

A notification plan must set out how and when the public authority will give public notice of the proposed use of pesticides in any prescribed public place it owns or controls. In particular, the notification plan must contain information about:

  • where the plan will apply. The plan must identify the categories of public places where pesticides are to be used. For example, a notification plan might say that pesticides are used at 20 local parks and playgrounds and list their names and addresses. Where the notification plan refers to road verges, it may be sufficient for the plan to say that pesticides may be used on all council-managed roads within its area, and refer to a map showing the local government area boundaries. It may not be necessary to identify each public place.
  • who regularly uses the public places. For example, a notification plan might say that the public places covered in the plan are used by local families, children, school groups and the general public. The notification plan must give a general estimate of the level of use. For example, the notification plan might say that these places are frequently used by local families.
  • how and when the public authority will notify people about proposed pesticide use in public places. The notification plan needs to give details about the specific notification arrangements that will be used. For example, the local notification plan might say that the council will use newspaper advertisements, web-postings, information included with rates notices, mail-outs and/or signs to give notice of a pesticide application. The notification arrangements will vary among public authorities, including councils, in accordance with the circumstances and needs of each local community. The notification plan must identify the categories of, or specify particular public places for which the public authority will provide notification of all or only some proposed uses of pesticides, and what those uses are. The notification plan must also specify the public places for which the public authority does not intend to provide notification.
  • what information will be provided about a pesticide application. The notification plan needs to say what types of information will be given to the community when giving them notice of pesticide use. The Pesticides Regulation sets out minimum information requirements for when notice is given. The notice given to the community must include:
    • where the pesticide will be used
    • the full product name of the pesticide that will be used
    • the purpose of the use (for example, to kill noxious weeds)
    • the proposed date/s of use (where possible this should be specific, for example, weed spraying in specific streets in the week 1–7 August). Where it is not possible to provide a specific period, a range of dates of when an application will take place should be given
    • a phone number/email address for the officer who can be contacted about the notice
    • any warnings on the pesticide label or permit about how long the area must be avoided after a pesticide application.
  • how the community will be informed about the notification plan. The plan must also provide the contact details of an officer the community can contact to discuss the notification plan. It must include their job title or description, and phone number or email address.
  • how the plan will be reviewed in the future and how the community can be involved in future reviews. The specified review period varies across the state, but it is required that all plans will be updated on a regular cycle, consistent with community expectation.
  • the notification plan must describe what special notification measures will be used if pesticides are used in a prescribed public place that is next to a sensitive place, such as a school or hospital. For example, special protection could include providing notification earlier, in greater detail and/or in a different form to ensure that the risk of people at sensitive sites coming into contact with the pesticide application is minimised.
  • if a pesticide must be used to deal with an emergency near a sensitive place, extra steps should be specified to let people know about it. For example, some public authorities could make sure a door-knock takes place to inform people that a pesticide is about to be used to deal with a dangerous pest infestation.

What is a prescribed public place?

In summary, prescribed public places are any of the following places that the public is entitled to have access to (with or without paying a fee):

  • public gardens
  • picnic areas
  • playgrounds
  • parks, sporting fields, or ovals
  • national parks and other lands reserved under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974, State forests or Crown land
  • any public land owned or controlled by a public authority, for example, road verges, and rail and electricity easements.

A prescribed public place also includes school and TAFE grounds, but does not include the inside of any buildings or structures. All prescribed public places must be considered in the notification plan.

The full definition of a prescribed public place is in Part 5, Division 1 of the Pesticides Regulation. The full definition should be read before a notification plan is reviewed.

What is a sensitive place?

In summary, a sensitive place is any:

  • school or pre-school
  • kindergarten
  • childcare centre
  • hospital
  • community health centre
  • nursing home.

The full definition of a sensitive place is in Part 5, Division 1 of the Pesticides Regulation. The full definition should be read before a notification plan is prepared or reviewed.

The Environment Protection Authority (EPA) can declare additional types of places to be sensitive places by publication of a notice in the Government Gazette. No additional places have been gazetted. Any additions will be listed on this webpage.

Can a notification plan cover other things?

Yes. These rules mean that prescribed public places and sensitive sites must be covered by notification plans. The plan can include additional areas if the public authority wishes. For example, some public authorities include the inside of any buildings in public places or list the extra steps needed to protect places like organic farms when pesticides are used nearby. However, it is not compulsory to include these details in the notification plan.

Extra information about the pesticide application can also be included in a notification plan. For example, some public authorities describe how a pesticide will be applied to an area: backpack sprayer, aerial spraying, or by a spraying vehicle

Can I get help to revise a notification plan?  

Notification plans must be reviewed by the date specified by the public authority when the plan was created. Revised plans must be placed on public exhibition as described by the Pesticides Regulation and in the guidelines below. The public authority is not required to place a plan on exhibition if the changes are minor (see clause 23).

The EPA suggests that a review should focus on the following issues:

  • Does the plan meet the requirements of the Pesticides Regulation?
  • Does the plan meet the needs of the community?
  • Does the plan meet the needs of the users, e.g. the pesticide applicators and public authority staff? Are the requirements easy to understand?
  • Have the pesticide use or notification requirements of the authority changed?
  • What is the best way to present this information?

How does the community get to comment on new or revised plans?

Remember, a notification plan will only comply with these rules if the community has been consulted. The Pesticides Regulation sets out the steps public authorities need to follow to get the necessary level of community input.

If you are responsible for preparing a public authority's new or revised plan for a public authority you need to:

  • publicly announce that a draft notification plan is ready for community input. If your notification plan covers areas throughout NSW, you need to put a notice in a statewide newspaper. If your notification plan covers only a specific local area or areas, you need to put a notice in a newspaper that circulates generally in those areas. You do not have to limit your announcement to one newspaper – this is the minimum notice that you need to give. The notice must specify the area in which the plan is to operate.
  • specify in the notice where a copy of the draft notification plan will be displayed and make sure it is available for viewing during office hours, free of charge. If you have a website, it should also be displayed there.
  • include details about how the community can provide their comments and how long they will have. At least four weeks must be given for their comments after the notice is published in the newspaper. The draft plan or revised plan needs to be freely available for community inspection during this period.
  • make sure that you prepare your draft notification plan with enough time to receive and consider comments from the community. When you have considered the submissions from community members and made any subsequent changes to the plan, you will have developed your final notification plan.

What happens when the notification plan is finalised?

Once the final notification plan is ready, public authorities must announce where the notification plan will operate and where the plan can be viewed. To do this, the public authority needs to publish the announcement in the NSW Government Gazette. The announcement must also be published in the same type of newspaper used to publish the notice for the draft notification plan.

Public authorities also need to write to the EPA confirming that the notification plan has been reviewed in accordance with the Pesticides Regulation.

The plan must be made available to the public for inspection free of charge at the public authority's main office. It should also be placed on the public authority's website, if it has one.

What happens if these rules are ignored?

Penalties may apply where pesticides have been used in a prescribed public place but a notification plan has not been developed and displayed in accordance with the Regulation or if the notification was not carried out in accordance with the plan.

Court-imposed fines of up to $44,000 could apply to corporations and fines of up to $22,000 could apply to individuals. In other instances, on-the-spot penalty notice fines of $800 for corporations or $400 for individuals may apply.

Penalties may also apply to a public authority if it employs a contractor to use pesticides who does not notify according to the public authority's notification plan.

Do notification plans affect people who lease land from public authorities or contractors who use pesticides in public places?

Yes. A public authority's plan affects public places that it leases out. If a public authority employs contractors to use pesticides in public places or in public places near sensitive sites, the authority's notification plan still needs to be followed. Public authorities are responsible for advising lessees or contractors about their notification plan. Public authorities are also liable if notification is not carried out in accordance with the authority's notification plan. This is regardless of whether the public authority has engaged someone else to carry out the notification on their behalf.

Page last updated: 03 December 2013