However, Kerry County Council yesterday made no provision in its €30m budget for 2016 for the traditional cutting of hedgerows.
One councillor indicated that the council risks spreading the threat of knotweed by issuing warning letters to landowners.
Independent councillor Michael Cahill said “it was time to declare war on Japanese knotweed”, a persistent problem that is spreading fast. He claimed that with many people unaware of the appearance or threat of knotweed, the council’s decision to send out 5,500 letters to roadside landowners to maintain hedgerows could exacerbate the problem as cutting the plant spreads the species.
Mr Cahill said it was time to have the plant — which poses a threat to road surfaces and buildings — put on a national register for noxious weeds, obliging private landowners to play a role in its eradication.
Clearing roadside hedgerows is the responsibility of individual landowners in Kerry and must be undertaken between September and March, largely to protect birds under the wildlife acts.
Some €98,000 is being set aside by the council for the removal of knotweed from roadsides in 2016.
Work is already under way in treating and spraying some patches of the N22. Rivers are also being hit, with the Smearlagh river in north Kerry badly affected by the weed, councillors said.
Independent councillor Michael Gleeson said the weed was also spreading from public roadways into private driveways.
Meanwhile, in a separate matter, overgrown hedges continue to be a very serious problem in the tourist haven of Kerry.
Tour buses, along with other large vehicles such as delivery lorries, are regularly damaged. Out-of-control hedges are also a risk to cyclists.
“With our hedges, we are in serious difficulty as a tourism county,” said Independent councillor Johnny Healy-Rae, who previously advocated the council implement a hedge-cutting programme similar to one in West Cork and other areas.