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New committee to combat ‘bat shit alley’ problem

Clarence Valley’s councillors have upped their efforts to rid Maclean of its flying-fox colony.
Councillors resolved to “form a flying fox dispersal committee to pursue all lawful means to disperse problem flying-fox camps from in and around affected residential zones and community facilities in the Clarence Valley LGA”.
This decision follows their February resolution, which sought “to expedite the dispersal and continuing vacancy of the flying fox colonies located [near] the residences, cemeteries, high school and TAFE college around Jubilee, Kerry, Cameron and Woombah streets, Maclean and within 100 metres of any other … residential zone … subject of nearby resident complaint”.
The new committee, for which nominations will be invited from residents, community organisations, the members for Page and Clarence (or their representatives) and “councillors [who] have a strong commitment to the urgent development … of a dispersal action plan”, will be a separate entity to the existing The Maclean Flying-fox Working Group, which is responsible for implementing the Maclean Flying-fox Management Strategy 2010.
The management strategy lists dispersal among the “non-feasible options that have not been considered further” which are: “do nothing; culling; dispersal; relocate school; modifying of the Yaegl Nature Reserve; and, remove all vegetation from Maclean Rainforest Reserve”.
Speaking to his mayoral minute at last week’s council meeting, Cr Jim Simmons said the new committee was necessary “to speed up the process … I can tell you that [the bats] have spread and are defecating over a larger area of Maclean”.
Councillor Arthur Lysaught said, when he left the previous Tuesday’s committee meeting, that the “first thing we got when we walked out the door was the atrocious odour of [bat] faeces”.
“…I think it is in the best interests of the people of this valley for these things to be removed from the municipal area of Maclean or any other tenement they roost in,” he said.
He challenged the responsible federal minster to spend “a couple of nights” staying in one of the nearby residences, which have suffered “incredible” devaluations.
Councillor Greg Clancy opposed the decision; saying it was a “sad” situation, despite the “good intentions” of the mayoral minute.
“We need to move the school as a start and rehabilitate that area and that will give the flying-foxes somewhere to go, he said.
He said that dispersal can’t work unless “we do what Cr Baker wants to, cut down every tree in the Clarence Valley area”.
Councillor Andrew Baker said there was a “need for something else” apart from the working group.
“…The only thing I really know about these bats is that they do roost in trees, and where there are no trees there are no bats,” he said, suggesting that clearing to a distance of 300 metres would be appropriate.
“…If we could be seen to be doing something to help the community … it will be a hell of a lot more than we’ve seen so far [from the working group] …, I don’t think [their meetings] even occur under the trees in bat shit alley”.
Councillor Peter Ellem spoke against the decision, saying the issue “needs political will” from the state and federal members, to relocate the high school and purchase affected homes.
Only councillors Ellem and Clancy opposed the motion.
A report and a list of nominations and acceptances, together with a draft constitution, will be tabled at the June 2017 meeting.