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To disperse or not to disperse

Clarence Valley Council’s (CVC) Flying Fox Dispersal Committee will seek to achieve what federal and state politicians – Luke Hartsuyker, Kevin Hogan and Chris Gulaptis – have been unable to achieve: gain a dispersal licence to move the bats from Maclean High School and surrounds. At last week’s CVC meeting, after a lengthy debate about the pros and cons of dispersal, councillors unanimously decided to “do all things necessary to receive a report at the September 2017 meeting on the likely costs [and] the necessary licence application processes”. Their decision also seeks to establish the “availability of assistance and support through local members of federal and state parliament for a licence or licences to disperse flying foxes from within 100 metres of urban areas of the Clarence Valley Council area”. The dispersal committee is comprised of councillors Andrew Baker and Debrah Novak and community representatives Dianne or Ron Browning and Andrew Potter (residents), Edwina Cameron (community representative) and Maclean Chamber of Commerce’s Denise Worrill. Meanwhile, the Maclean Flying-Fox Management Strategy 2010 has previously determined that dispersal is not viable. “Dispersal of any scale is not a scientifically valid management action,” the document states in its preferred management strategy. The management strategy notes that “relocation attempts at Maclean between April 1999 and December 2006 cost at least $400,000 including over 640 person-hours of effort (Roberts et al. 2010), [and] relocation at Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne cost approximately $3 million and thousands of person hours of effort (derived from Toop in Roberts 2008)”. Implementation of the strategy’s actions is overseen by a multi-stakeholder working group At the council meeting, Cr Greg Clancy said the committee was giving people “false hope” and, as did Cr Peter Ellem, said moving the school would be a more appropriate method of managing the camp. “This [NSW] government is flush with funds to build schools,” said Cr Ellem, who pointed out that the colony located at the corner of Cameron St and Jubilee Terrace (the gully) had setup camp there as a result of the dispersal between 1999 and 2006. He also expressed sympathy for the residents affected by the camp, and said “they need help”. Councillor Richie Williamson said the council “should be fully informed of costs and conditions of any licence that maybe granted”, however, he acknowledged, that “just because a licence is granted doesn’t mean it has to be used”. Councillor Karen Toms said “this new committee is trying to help people who live with the problem 24 hours a day”. “We have to keep trying to help the people who are impacted,” she said. Councillor Baker, who made it clear he was “looking for action” and acknowledged that gaining a dispersal licence may not happen, said “let’s get the information and move on”. “This is an attempt to find out if there any possible way to alleviate the suffering of the people,” he said. The report to council states that “to carry out the above assessments would be in the order of $10,000”.