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RIGHT: Flying-foxes numbers – grey headed, black and little red – are in very high numbers in Maclean at the moment. Image: Geoff Helisma

Riding the bats merry-go-round

RIGHT: Flying-foxes numbers – grey headed, black and little red – are in very high numbers in Maclean at the moment. Image: Geoff Helisma

Clarence Valley Council (and the former Maclean Shire Council) has long been involved in trying to find an answer to Maclean’s bat problem.
Flying-fox numbers in the camp around Maclean High School and nearby residential areas are significantly high at the moment.
After lengthy consultation with the community, Clarence Valley Council and the Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water, on behalf of the Maclean Flying-fox Working Group, established the colony’s guiding document, the Maclean Flying-fox Management Strategy, in December 2010.
At last month’s February 21 Clarence Valley Council (CVC) meeting, councillors voted to: “urgently implement all other lawful actions necessary to expedite the dispersal and continuing vacancy of the flying fox colonies located in the vicinity of the residences, cemeteries, High School and TAFE college around Jubilee, Kerry, Cameron and Woombah Streets, Maclean and within 100 metres of any other Clarence Valley Council area residential zone where the colony location is subject of nearby resident complaint”.
Six of the eight councillors present supported the resolution, which also flagged that “no Clarence Valley Council funds on the ‘lawful actions’ be spent on the dispersal before Council approval”.
Councillors Clancy and Ellem opposed the decision (Cr Lysaught was absent).
An amendment put up by Cr Novak, to “actively seek a conversation with Kevin Hogan and Chris Gulaptis”, Maclean High School and … “the community to see what they would like done regarding moving the bats” and/or relocating the school was voted down – Crs Novak, Ellem and Clancy were in support.

During debate, Cr Peter Ellem said it was time to seriously consider relocating the school.
“That would be good planning,” he said. “The state government has promised to build 10 new schools to meet population growth.”
He said it was “crazy” to continue recommending dispersal of the bats.
The management strategy, which rejects dispersal as an answer to the problem, points out that “relocation attempts [at Maclean] between April 1999 and December 2006 cost at least $400,000 including at least 640 person hours of effort”, and that the Royal Botanic Gardens dispersal in Melbourne cost approximately $3million and “thousands of person hours”.
Councillor Greg Clancy was perplexed by the motion to disperse the bats. “The working group is trying to establish new habitat,” he said.
“I get confused regarding people moving a motion … for something that won’t work anyway; I can’t understand why people keep putting it up.”
Councillor Richie Williamson acknowledged that the working group “is doing good work and putting long-term strategies in place”.
He noted that the estimated cost of the dispersal currently underway in Bateman’s Bay is $6million – the NSW Government has committed $2.5million dollars to this three-year program.
However, while he said that he didn’t want to give people false hope about achieving a dispersal and that the term ‘lawful actions’ was “pretty thin”, he said, “but we are having a go.”
Meanwhile, CVC did not make a direct submission to the federal government’s ‘Inquiry Into Flying-Fox Management in the Eastern States’ – the first report was tabled last week.
However, CVC did provide comment to Local Government NSW to include with its submission.
The report makes four recommendations: the Australian Government 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; the Department of the Environment and Energy 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, the Department of the Environment and Energy, in consultation with other relevant organisations, develop a suite of education resources for Australian communities regarding flying-fox ecology, behaviour, environmental significance, health impacts, and management options.

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