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Sunshine Coast spends $1m a year to shift bats but now says using your sprinkler is cheaper


There are now 680,000 flying foxes in 10 roosts on the Sunshine Coast. Photo: Supplied

The effort to permanently shift flying foxes has cost the Sunshine Coast Council almost $1 million a year but the council has since decided it is cheaper instead for residents to use sprinklers to keep flying foxes where they belong.

Sunshine Coast Council in 2016 decided to persuade residents in Mooloolaba and Coolum to use sprinklers – and installed their own canopy-sprinklers – to keep flying foxes inside much-wider buffer zones.

"Council has initiated an innovative partnership approach with residents' trialling the use of canopy-mounted sprinklers to deter flying foxes from buffer zones," a report to council says.

"This novel approach – which council was invited to showcase at the National Flying Fox forum – includes a partnership with residents in charge of controlling the sprinklers at their boundary and also agreeing to pay for water and power costs.
"Council pays for the installation of pump and sprinklers and can relocate the system if flying foxes leave a site."

The report to the council shows trying to permanently shift the flying foxes is also 12 per cent more expensive than other steps.

At its first meeting for 2017, on January 25, the council will have a vote to change policy and choose instead to build wider vegetation buffers around roosts and install sprinklers to discourage flying foxes.

There are now 680,000 flying foxes in 10 roosts on the Sunshine Coast, one more than in 2013 when the council took steps to "disperse" them from Coolum and Maroochydore.

"Evidence-based learning to date from both council and national experience indicate that flying foxes cannot effectively be removed from the local area, however their impacts on residents can be reduced and managed," a recommendation reads.

"Based on the comparison of dispersal and buffer outcomes, it is recommended that the primary flying fox management tool for council is buffer management supported by education, research and community engagement."

The Newman government devolved the power of dealing with flying foxes from state government to local government in 2013.

Since 2013, the Sunshine Coast Council has spent $915,200 a year – with $747,131 from ratepayers' "environmental levy" and $168,068 from its own funds – to try to disperse flying foxes.

Documents on the Sunshine Coast Council's agenda show the results after five attempts to "disperse" flying foxes at three different sites, building vegetation buffers at six sites and installing canopy sprinklers at two sites.

Sunshine Coast results show:
Dispersals

"Dispersals are approximately 12 per cent more costly than flying fox exclusion buffers, noting that dispersals can be a compounding cost while buffers are a one-off cost.

"Complete removal of animals has occurred following two of the five dispersals, however flying foxes have remained in the local area.

"Splinter camps formed resulting in a net transfer and escalation of impacts from flying foxes on the community.

Buffer zones

Exclusion buffers prevent flying foxes from roosting within 5m-30m of residential boundaries.

"Results show that this can be achieved with a higher degree of certainty and in a more cost-effective manner than dispersals. No further complaints have been received this year from four of the five locations that this management technique has been used."

Costs

Two "dispersals" of flying foxes from Coolum cost $150,000.

Building a buffer at Palmwoods cost $26,000.

Building a buffer at Mooloolaba cost $65,489.

Building a buffer at Landsborough cost $11,719.

Dispersing flying foxes and building a buffer at Maroochydore cost $111,686.

What happened since 2013

In 2013 there were nine known urban flying fox roosts on council managed or partially-managed land, including six roosts impacting adjoining residents.

In 2017 there are 10 urban flying fox roosts on council managed or partially managed land.

There are four roosts which are "actively managed' by the animal health officers from the Sunshine Coast Council and state government staff.

They are Vidler Park at Landsborough, the Emerald Woods Environmental Area at Mooloolaba, the Aragorn Street Bushland Reserve at Maroochydore, and the Elizabeth Street Drain at Coolum.

What happened to the Sunshine Coast's flying foxes?

The population has remained stable, about 640,000.

Flying foxes "dispersed" from the Cassia Wildlife Corridor at Coolum between May and July 2014 returned to Coolum's Elizabeth Street Drain in September 2014.

In 2015, two "dispersals" were trialled at the Elizabeth Street Drain and the flying foxes returned after each attempt.

The fifth "dispersal" was at Aragorn Bushland Reserve, Maroochydore, in April-May 2016.

The flying foxes relocated to a nearby site at Eudlo Creek Conservation Area and close to residents on Kawana Island.

The Kawana Island roost shifted to an island in Mooloolah River where they remained until September 2016.

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Megabats and Microbats: Sunshine Coast spends $1m a year to shift bats but now says using your sprinkler is cheaper
Sunshine Coast spends $1m a year to shift bats but now says using your sprinkler is cheaper
Sunshine Coast spends $1m a year to shift bats but now says using your sprinkler is cheaper
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