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Cairns Regional Council CEO instructed staff to wait to trim bat trees until after election


CAIRNS  Regional Council’s chief executive told staff to defer trimming a CBD tree containing bats until after the council election, to avoid any public backlash.

The council wants to trim the large fig tree – containing a big colony of flying foxes – outside the Woolshed on Shields St, which has been deemed a public safety risk due to falling branches.

An email released under Right To Information laws, written by council infrastructure services general manager Bruce Gardiner, passes on an instruction on January 29 to staff from chief executive Peter Tabulo to “wait until after the election to do any substantial trimming of the tree”.

“I have discussed this with Peter and he wants us to wait until after the election to do any substantial trimming of the tree,’’ Mr Gardiner wrote.
“We can do minor branch removal to ensure the site is safe for workers, under the guidance of an ecologist.

“However, if we get any negative reactions to trimming, we would need to defer til after March 19.”

Wildlife activist Noel Castley-Wright, who filed the RTI request, claimed the email showed the incumbent council did not want to jeopardise its chances of re-election.

“This is an attempt to hide from the voters what the council are planning, and it’s basically misrepresenting voters on what’s going on,’’ Mr Castley-Wright said.

Mr Tabulo, however, said the instruction was merely to assist the incoming council.

“Given the sensitivities reg­arding pruning of high profile trees in the CBD – particularly when flying foxes are present – it is appropriate for an ­incoming council to be ­involved in discussion surrounding any works to be ­undertaken,’’ he said.

“It would therefore be prudent to wait until the new council is installed.”

But Mr Castley-Wright pointed out the email was sent before the council entered caretaker mode.

“Peter’s response is inconsistent with the fact that it was happening when council was not in caretaker mode, and it was under the operation of Bob Manning,’’ he said.

Both the Local Government Association and Queensland and the State’s Department of Local Government, Infrastructure and Planning declined to comment yesterday.

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Megabats and Microbats: Cairns Regional Council CEO instructed staff to wait to trim bat trees until after election
Cairns Regional Council CEO instructed staff to wait to trim bat trees until after election
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