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Unwelcome neighbours ruling the roost

Emma Pritchard

Less than a fortnight ago, several new residents moved into a quiet and picturesque area of Grafton.

But they’re not welcome.

Their constant shrieking, feeding, habitat destruction, offensive odour and waste products are driving locals in Victoria, Fitzroy and Alice Street batty.

As Irene Armstrong gazes up into the leafy canopies of the camphor laurel, jacaranda and fig trees outside her home of close to 50 years, she estimates the population of the newest residents, who first appeared at the end of January, has grown to more than 40000.

While she has seen flying foxes in the area on previous occasions, she has never witnessed such large numbers before, and they’ve turned her life upside down.

Ms Armstrong said more and more flying foxes are appearing every day, her sleep is seriously disrupted due to the constant noise of the mammals, and the stench of their frequent defecating and urinating is worsening following recent humid and wet weather.

Other residents share her concerns with many forced to stay inside with their doors and windows firmly shut to prevent the sounds and smells of the flying fox camp from entering their homes.

Concerned and frustrated, Ms Armstrong contacted Clarence Valley Council (CVC) last week while several other residents have also expressed their anger.

“None of us have had a proper night’s sleep since January 29 when the first bats arrived,” she said.

“They’re noisy, they’re creating a mess and we don’t want them here.”

Ms Armstrong also shared a letter she and her neighbours received from council with the Clarence Valley Independent, highlighting their awareness of the impact caused by the flying fox camp which has been formed by two local species, the threatened grey headed flying fox and the little red flying fox. 

The letter also outlines the breeding season for the grey headed flying fox extends to March, therefore any management actions which could disturb the flying foxes and require consent from state and federal agencies are unlikely to be approved at the current time.

In a recent statement, CVC Director of Environment and Planning Adam Cameron said council is working closely with residents and the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE) to monitor the flying fox camp.

Mr Cameron said council understands the flying foxes are unpleasant for residents living nearby and he is encouraging anyone impacted to contact their Natural Resources Management team on 6643 0200.

In NSW, flying foxes are protected under the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016.

The grey headed flying fox is also listed as vulnerable under the Biodiversity Conservation Act and the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

It is illegal to harm individuals or a camp habitat without approval from relevant authorities.

For Ms Armstrong and her neighbours, the likelihood of sharing their streets and gardens with the flying fox camp for another month or longer, is very distressing.

“All we want is for life to go back to how it was before the bats arrived,” Ms Armstrong said.

“We want them gone.”

The Clarence Valley Independent also contacted National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) for comment.