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Batemans Bay plagued by bats, with residents calling for urgent council assistance Megabat Fruit Bat Flying foxes

Residents of Batemans Bay on the New South Wales South Coast have called on their local council to do more to stop flying foxes plaguing the town, saying the bats are affecting their quality of life and business opportunities.

Former Eurobodalla councillor Robin Innes said she was among a number of residents who had been forced to leave their homes on a regular basis due to the odour, noise and disruption generated by tens of thousands of flying foxes in summer.

She said grey-headed flying foxes began to annually visit the region en masse about six years ago.

"At first it was exciting because we had never seen bats," Ms Innes said.

But, more recently the fruit bats have set up a permanent camp in the Water Garden Town Park Wetlands.




"Then they started to do their business all over the yards and then your car would be covered with yellow faeces," Ms Innes said.

"You can't let your kids go out and play, you can't leave your clothes out overnight.

"They start about 4:00am when they are coming home and they are pooping everywhere.

"It is just awful and I am so sorry for the people that have no alternative to go anywhere else. They deserve better."

Ms Innes's home is located in Pacific Street near the Water Garden Park and she would like to re-open the former boarding house to visitors for high tea and other tourism activities.

But she said she was seriously thinking about moving away on a more permanent basis due to the ongoing bat problem.

Earlier this year the Batemans Bay flying fox population peaked with an estimated 30,000 bats.

Ms Innes said her family refused to stay in her house due to the bats' stench.

"They say, 'Oh, am not staying here, it smells terrible'," she said.

"My family come back and say, 'Mum how can you live with this?'"

""I have found myself sitting in the lounge room crying because of the smell of these things.
Batemans Bay resident Mary Brierley

Ms Innes is among a number of nearby residents who are feeling very anxious in the lead up to peak summer bat numbers.

"I have moved over into High Street and it is like a nightmare," neighbour Mary Brierley said.

"On dark it would take 40 minutes for these things to fly from the Water Garden Park to out of town, so that gives you and estimation for how many there are."

Ms Brierley said she also found gardening impossible because of the excretion from the bats.

"Their faeces is just all over the place," she said.

"I have found myself sitting in the lounge room crying because of the smell of these things.

"Constantly having to close doors and windows putting on the exhaust fans to try and breath."
Eurobodalla Council calls for government action

Grey-headed flying foxes are a protected species and their favoured local habitat, the Batemans Bay Water Garden Park, is also protected.

Eurobodalla Council is responsible for around 65 per cent of the approximately 10-acre wetland area, with the remainder owned by private land holders and the local Aboriginal Land Council.




"The flying foxes are a protected species, we understand that. But this is neither the time nor the place for them," Ms Brierley said.

"I have lost confidence in the Eurobodalla Council because they have made a process out of it and it could take years and neighbours have almost given up hope.

"What are we supposed to do?"

Since March this year the Eurobodalla Council has spent $30,000 on emergency management, which has included pruning trees around nearby residents' homes to create a buffer zone between the bats' camp at the Water Garden Park and nearby dwellings.

The council spent a further $50,000 engaging a private consultant to create a management plan for the bats and is also preparing to launch a new website called Flying-Fox Engage, which asks responders to share how they feel about the bats and what responses they would like to see from council.

"Removing vegetation [in Water Garden Park] and culling bats is not on the agenda," Eurobodalla Mayor Lindsay Brown said.

He said there were mixed opinions about the flying foxes in the wider community and that council was being very proactive.

"People watch from over the other side of the river and the bay and they say it looks like the black plague has arrived." - Councillor Milton Leslight

Mr Brown said there were also regulatory and legislative limitations to consider.

"I would hate anybody to think that council is not being urgent on this," he said.

"It is a bureaucratic process and it is going to take some time.

"We would like to have this resolved as soon as possible but we have to tick all the boxes as far as legislative requirements are concerned."

Mr Brown said controversy in relation to flying foxes was not unique to Batemans Bay and he was seeking a meeting with the NSW Minister of Environment.


Water Gardens Park should be drained, cleared out: residents




Councillor and licensed real estate agent Milton Leslight said the council's recent emergency management had been a waste of ratepayers' funds and he was concerned it would do nothing to stop the growing problem.

Mr Leslight said some Batemans Bay businesses were closing, the local hospital has been affected and that nearby property values were dropping and many rentals remain empty as a result of the fruit bats.

"The escalation of the numbers has been horrific," Mr Leslight said.

"People watch from over the other side of the river and the bay and they say it looks like the black plague has arrived.

"[But] the novelty has destroyed these people's lives. If we don't address the problem as a matter of urgency, the problem is only going to escalate."

Mr Leslight accused Eurobodalla Council of being "complacent" and "lacking fortitude" to tackle the "bureaucratic red tape".

"The Water Gardens Park need to be cleaned out urgently," he said.

"The talk-fest will go on forever otherwise."

Ms Innes said she would also like to see the Water Gardens drained and cleaned out with excavators.

"Get rid of the undergrowth, burn it through, maintain the garden as a garden and not as a bat repository," she said.

"If we have created the problem then we can un-create it, because we should be smarter than the bats!

"Seventy per cent of the shire is forest and if they can't find another little waterhole in this shire to go and colonise then it is pretty sad."

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Megabats and Microbats: Batemans Bay plagued by bats, with residents calling for urgent council assistance Megabat Fruit Bat Flying foxes
Batemans Bay plagued by bats, with residents calling for urgent council assistance Megabat Fruit Bat Flying foxes
Batemans Bay plagued by bats, with residents calling for urgent council assistance Megabat Fruit Bat Flying foxes
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