RICHMOND Valley Council are set to undertake a flying fox dispersal program, after Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis announced a $1 million strategy to stop bats ‘running riot and ruining our lifestyle’ in Casino and Maclean.
If Richmond Valley Council takes its lead from Eurobodalla Council, which last week acquired $2.5 million in state funds to tackle its bat ‘emergency’ in Batemans Bay, strategies to ‘nudge’ camps of grey-headed flying foxes could include spraying trees with pheromone, sprinkler systems, and using giant inflatables like the ‘waving men’ outside car dealerships. Drones, however, were discussed but ruled out.
Richmond Valley Council said it already has in place planned priority management actions for the vulnerable species, which included ‘moving flying foxes away from human settlement’.
In the short term, council would continue vegetation removal to create buffer areas between residents and bats. A medium-to-long-term strategy is roost tree planting and rehabilitation of the preferred alternative roost location in the riparian area of Queen Elizabeth Park. This area is relatively remote from residential areas and makes up a large part of the existing camp area. It is hoped that recommencement of a tree planting and weed control program at this site will attract flying-foxes to less problematic areas.
Other planned management actions centre on community education, use of a complaints register, continued public health assessments, participation in flying-fox communication networks, moving flying foxes away from human settlement, and continued consultation with those most affected by the camp.
Mr Gulaptis said, “I know that the communities in Maclean and Casino are fed up with this out-of-control problem and with this funding we can now move ahead with dispersal and manage new sites for the bats.”
“The sheer number of bats in these communities is overwhelming and has caused a lot of frustration and concern over a long period of time,” he said.
However, Evan Quartermain, Senior Program Manager at the Humane Society International Australia said, “We have an absurd situation where in effect the Commonwealth has delegated responsibility to the States, who have in turn delegated responsibility to local councils, who then respond to a handful of the noisiest individuals.
“Rather than managing this situation for the protection of the species and the local community, councils are predominantly proceeding to harm the flying-foxes, spending vast amounts of public money and all for the sake of a process likely to fail. So we end up spending millions of dollars to stop the bellyaching of a few individuals, funding that should be spent on recovering the species, but of course never has been.”
The combined government management actions, the latest of which is NSW Premier Mike Baird’s provision of $2.5 million of public money to attempt flying-fox dispersal at Batemans Bay (classed as being unlikely to succeed in the draft dispersal plan for the camp), are quite simply perverse and against the public interest.
“The grey-headed flying-fox is protected under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) and the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995,” he said.