WELCOME NEWS: Bat supporters Maree Treadwell and Brynn Mathews celebrate that the “nursery tree’ at Cairns Library has been saved. PICTURE: ANNA ROGERS
A COUNCIL backflip will create a permanent home in the Cairns CBD for thousands of threatened bats that it tried to run out of town just a year ago.
Bat advocates have praised Cairns Regional Council’s new flying fox management plan, announced yesterday, but have questioned why it took so long to get there.
The new $165,000 plan will involve maintaining the CBD spectacled flying fox colony near Cairns Library in the heritage-listed fig tree known as the “nursery tree” while also ramping up cleaning and maintenance activity.
The council will also launch a new “Flying Fox Move On” unit to “nudge” the animals to new locations or roosts “if required”.
It effectively takes the situation back to square one before the council attempted to disperse the bats in March last year.
That was a point not missed by division five Councillor Richie Bates in the council’s Community Services Committee meeting yesterday.
To date, the council has spent about $150,000 in its attempts to disperse the bats.
North Queensland Environmental Defenders Office treasurer Brynn Mathews said the decision to maintain the CBD colony was “absolutely” a good backflip but questioned the amount of money council had “wasted”.
“When they were considering trying to disperse the colony last year they were told it would be a waste of time and money because it wouldn’t work, it would just spread them around the CBD. That’s exactly what happened.”
The council and contractors Garden Friendly Mulchers are still involved in legal action to fight a combined eight charges over allegedly non-compliant pruning last year of CBD trees that were home to spectacled flying foxes.
The matter came before the courts after both parties refused to pay fines totalling $25,000 which were issued by the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection.
The council now faces maximum penalties totalling $494,760 if convicted.