There was a lot of hot air blowing at council’s meeting this week when councillors clashed over a ban on helium balloons.
It started with a notice of motion from Greens councillor, Brent Hoare, asking for a briefing on the feasibility of banning the use and release of helium balloons at council events, as Lithgow Council has just done.
Liberal councillor Daniel Myles fired up.
“Here we are going to sacrifice the happiness of children… here we have a nanny state at its extreme,” he said.
As other councillors interjected with “fun police” and “fake news” remarks, Cr Myles continued: “Here we have a council intruding into peoples lives …. there have been sacrifices on the altar of some form of political expediency.
“And how are we going to police this stupidity? Are we going to have our limited rangers … wandering through events saying, ‘hey, you’ve got a helium-filled balloon, here’s your fine’?”
“Let’s not erode our credibility with the public by saying your kid can’t have a helium balloon… It absolutely must not be what this council is about. This is one of the most ridiculous motions I have ever seen and I hope it’s thrown out.”
Fellow Liberal, Cr Brendan Christie, joined the chorus, saying “I didn’t run for local government to ban things”.
“It’s always the adults that are trying to take away the fun things that kids enjoy … in the name of saving the sea turtle,” Cr Christie said.
“It’s motions like this that turn us into a laughing stock.”
But the mayor, Mark Greenhill, stepped down from his chair to support the motion. “Here comes the cavalry,” he said to Cr Hoare.
“Cr Hoare’s sincerity on issues of the environment can’t be ignored,” Cr Greenhill said.
“Let’s have a look [at the motion]. Does he seek to ban helium balloons? No, he doesn’t. He seeks a briefing on the feasibility – let’s get told about the impacts.”
Cr Hoare admitted he was “a bit shocked” at various councillors’ reactions and pointed out that in February, Zoos Victoria urged Australians to blow bubbles instead of balloons at their next outdoor events because of the danger balloons pose to marine wildlife, especially seabirds.
Cr Hoare’s motion was passed 8-4, with Liberal councillors Myles, Christie, Chris Van der Kley and Kevin Schreiber voting against.