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Cairns Regional Council gives Novotel green light on bat trees

Sunset at 7pm after a storm front moved over Cairns 2 hours earlier. Fruit bats along Abbott St. Picture: Stewart McLean

AN APPLICATION to cut down and trim trees at the Cairns Novotel Oasis Resort in the city’s CBD now needs approval from state and federal governments.

Cairns Regional Council yesterday unanimously moved to support the hotel’s application to prune three trees and remove two after the flying fox advisory committee gave it the go ahead.

But the hotel still needs approval from the higher levels of government.

Division 5 Councillor Richie Bates said work should not take place while the flying foxes were in birthing season.

“I think it is important, there is a window of opportunity to do this work,” he said.

“As we have seen in the past, we have a state government with zero tolerance in overstepping the mark.

“What we do know is bats will return to the area and they will find new trees to roost in, potentially on the Esplanade or outside someone else’s residence.” Earlier this year the council was fined $15,000 for disturbing flying foxes and trimming trees in 2014.

Councillors agreed the work should be closely supervised.

Australasian Bat Society’s Maree Treadwell Kerry said the two trees were not used by flying foxes and the hotel agreed to comply with recommendations on the trimming.

“My understanding is that the trees need trimming as they overhang on to roads, which may actually endanger bats as it increases the chances of bats falling on to the road,” she said.


Tree cutters saw their way through large trees at the Novotel Hotel in Cairns. Protestors believe the tree's are being cut down due to the bat population. PICTURE: JUSTIN BRIERTY

“One (tree) is not in a good condition and the other is a coconut palm near the pool, which could be hazardous to people.”

Division 2 Councillor John Schilling called for trees on Abbott and Sheridan streets to be trimmed at the same time.

“If Novotel goes ahead with this and we haven’t dealt with those trees ... these bats will be in those trees and council won’t be able to touch them,” he said.

Expert warning over resorts’ bid to prunes bat trees - 8th Nov 2016

A FLYING fox expert has warned the trimming of bat trees at the Cairns Novotel Oasis Resort would need to be done branch-by-branch under close supervision to avoid another environmental crackdown by the State Government.

Cairns Regional Council today will decide on an application by Novotel to remove two trees and trim three trees by up to 20 per cent at its Lake St resort in the CBD.

The application comes months after the council was fined $15,000 for disturbing flying foxes and trimming trees in 2014.

Wild About Australia biologist Dr Martin Cohen, who also is the council’s consultant and chairman of its flying fox committee, met the council six weeks ago to inspect the site.

He said the two trees the hotel planned to remove were not used by flying foxes but believed the proposal to trim the other three tree canopies by up to 20 per cent was too much.

He said the work would need to be undertaken in March or April next year, after breeding season, otherwise “all hell would break loose”.

“It probably doesn’t make a huge difference, but if they accidentally (trim) 25 per cent, it will,” Dr Cohen said.

“They need someone like me to watch and talk them through which branches,” he said.

“They (flying foxes) can’t just fly around and not come back. They will settle somewhere else. We don’t want them at the Esplanade or Shields street.”

A council report said a poinciana, a mango tree and a beach calophyllum would be pruned.

A coconut tree next to the pool would be removed due to damage to the hotel pool and path, while an apple blossom at the front of the property would be cut down due to “poor health and instability”.

The hotel originally wanted to trim the three tree canopies by up to 30 per cent but in the report that amount of trimming was described as “not acceptable”.

The report says fallen branches and potential dropping branches are “a danger to infrastructure, pedestrians and vehicles.”

Advice from an aborist in the report shows one tree is infested, rotten and decayed, while another is in “rapid decline” with a very poor sap flow. Others are in “average” or “good” health.

If native wildlife is found the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection needs to be contacted.

Approval to trim and remove trees occupied by flying foxes would also need to be granted by the state and federal governments.

The Novotel Oasis Resort’s director of sales was contacted for comment.

Quck trim turns costly for Council

August 2014: Cairns Regional Council approves the felling of 11 mango and fig trees from the site of the Novotel Oasis Resort on Lake St. The hotelier claimed the bats were a potential health risk and their noise and smell had reduced patronage.

September 2014: The Federal Government grants permission to start clearing works after May 1, 2015.

May 2015: Contractors start removing trees watched by protesters.

August 2016: The council is fined $15,000 after pleading guilty to three charges for disturbing flying foxes and trimming trees in 2014.


CAIRNS Regional Council has rejected claims the Novotel Oasis Resort has sought its approval to remove flying fox roosting trees from an inner-city vacant block of land.

The hotel proposes to clear 11 trees, some of which house the protected spectacled flying fox, from the 1.4ha site on Abbott St as early as the end of this month.

It says mango trees have caused problems for management, including infrastructure damage from roots and slip hazards from fallen fruit, and the noise from the colony has impacted on guests.

Earlier this year, council staff removed 20-30 per cent of two trees at the site in an attempt to deter flying foxes from roosting in the CBD.

Removing the trees completely is estimated to take about a week and requires council and federal approval.

While Novotel’s application to the Federal Government is currently open for public comment, the council has denied receiving one.

“The private landowners (Novotel) have not declared their intentions to council in relation to the trees and no application has been lodged with council for the removal of the trees,” a spokeswoman said.

The proposed clearing works have angered the Environmental Defenders Office of Northern Queensland, which argued the trees’ historical and environmental significance.

“These trees are historic because they were planted by the students of the Cairns Central School, the prior occupant of this site, in the first Arbor Day plantings in Queensland on August 1, 1890, an event created to celebrate the anniversary of the coronation of Queen Victoria,” EDO NQ president Mark Buttrose said.

“It is disappointing that, despite being in the tourism business, Novotel seems incapable of appreciating the tourism value of large, mature historic trees and the threatened species that roost in them.”

Residents have until August 19 to respond to Novotel’s proposal, visit environment.gov.au

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Megabats and Microbats: Cairns Regional Council gives Novotel green light on bat trees
Cairns Regional Council gives Novotel green light on bat trees
Cairns Regional Council gives Novotel green light on bat trees
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