A full meeting of the Christchurch City Council has been told council contractors are not wearing masks when applying a weed killer classed as a probable carcinogen.
Roundup and its active ingredient, glyphosate, is commonly used by councils and households around the country, but was recently singled out by the World Health Organisation as possibly causing cancer.
The council's parks manager Andrew Rutledge told today's council meeting that workers applying the weedkiller on parks and pathways had been told not to wear protective masks so as not to alarm the public.
"The contractors response is that they don't want to frighten the public, so essentially they don't want to be seen in public spaces wearing the appropriate equipment because it naturally gives off quite a scary image."
Mayor Lianne Dalziel said she was horrified to hear that was the case.
Councillors also expressed widespread disbelief.
Councillor Jamie Gough said the council needed to ensure it was meeting its obligations under the health and safety act and he was shocked masks were not being worn.
"I'm gobsmacked to hear that we have these procedures here. We need to take this so seriously, you know it's not done for a laugh.
"They drive a vehicle, they wear a seatbelt; they're working at a height, they have harnesses; and if they're working with this sort of stuff then they wear their protective gear."
Council staff said contractors will be told to begin wearing masks, despite what the public reaction might be.
The council is proposing to dramatically reduce its use of Roundup in public places and move to alternative methods of weed control.