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Bat strategy to be ‘nudged’ around the edges

Clarence Valley Council will seek to establish an “an urban buffer strip as far as Kerry Street” to further separate residences from the flying-fox colony, which is expanding further up the gully towards Kerry Street. Image: Contributed.

Geoff Helisma

Clarence Valley Council’s Flying Fox Dispersal Committee has recommended a review of the Maclean Flying Fox Management Strategy, which could see the creation of “an urban buffer strip as far as Kerry Street”.

The recommendation is a result of the flying-foxes expanding their roost further up the gully towards Kerry Street and affecting more adjacent residents.

The committee’s recommendation includes “examining compensatory habitat options which will possibly enable the flying fox to be ‘nudged’ into these new areas of vegetation”.

At yesterday’s council meeting (after the Independent went to press), councillors considered “possibly using biodiversity off-set funds to acquire land” to facilitate the establishment of “compensatory habitat”.

Councillors also considered applying for “up to $50,000 from the state government through mainly Crown Lands and the Department of Education” to update the flying-fox strategy and “further identify compensatory habitat areas and mechanisms to acquire this land”.

The report to council advised that it “would be prudent, depending on the level of financial and in-kind support from other stakeholders, to allocate “$25,000 in the 2018/19 budget to help access grant funding for [an] update of the strategy and potentially fund on-ground works”.

The report also advises councillors that “all sections of the community need to be at the table”, as part of the strategy’s updating process.

Meanwhile, following the recent Local Government Flying Fox Forum held on October 26, council staff have recommended that councillors support CVC making “representation to the federal government” through Page MP Kevin Hogan “to fully implement the recommendations of the 2016 parliamentary inquiry into the management of nationally protected flying foxes in the eastern states of Australia”.

The parliamentary inquiry recommendations, in part, are: ask the Australian Government [to] propose a national or eastern states flying fox consultative committee or working group to the Council of Australian Governments; establish a dedicated funding pool for flying fox research and conservation actions; ask the Department of the Environment and Energy [to] develop, in consultation with relevant state and local governments, a tool that assists councils to make decisions on action, referral and education in the most appropriate way…; and, that the department develop a suite of education resources for Australian communities regarding flying fox ecology, behaviour, environmental significance, health impacts and management options’ impacts in their jurisdiction.

Notably, the report to council points out that the public’s perception that “flying fox numbers are increasing” is not supported following “regular counts at all known camps”.

The phenomenon of new camps in urbanised areas along the coast (new colonies have established at Adelaide, Bega, Melbourne and elsewhere over the past five years), is “potentially in response to loss of traditional food sources, with more and more clearing of native vegetation across the landscape”.

“Evidence suggests that year round occupation of camps … will be ongoing,” the report to council stated.

In March this year, Mr Hogan spoke at a rally held near Maclean High School, at which he said the federal government would be reliant on taking advice from the Maclean Flying Fox working group, regarding dispersals.

He said, he didn’t “believe coexisting is working; we need to disperse the bats in the least disruptive way”.

In the meantime, Mr Hogan’s office said he has already “made representations to Minister for the Environment and Energy Josh Frydenberg, regarding the parliamentary inquiry’s recommendations”.

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