Council's each way bet on flying fox problem
CLARENCE Valley Council could find itself in the position of working on two committees dealing with flying fox issues: one promoting co-existence and another devoted to dispersing them.
This week's meeting of the council's environment planning and community committee voted to recommend the drafting of constitution for a council section 355 committee devoted to dispersing problem colonies of flying foxes when in the council area.
The council has been part of the State Government run Maclean Flying Fox Working Group since 2009, which has come up with a strategies to ensure the welfare of the animals is a prime concern.
On Tuesday Cr Andrew Baker moved to form a committee and come up with a constitution to allow the council to disperse problem flying fox communities.
Cr Baker said the new committee should include two representatives from each affected residential zone, two councillors, two community representatives with a strong commitment to the issue, the MP for the Federal seat of Page and State seat of Clarence, a representative from a Chamber of Commerce and a representative from a peak conservation body.
The Mayor Jim Simmons questioned an estimate of $20,000 needed to run the committee.
Cr Baker suggested the money could come from a discretionary fund available to the general manager.
"I have no fear that we would extract that quite readily," Cr Baker said to laughter from other councillors.
The director environment, planning and community, Des Schroder said the expenses only began to add up if the committee began to take action.
"Running the committee's not the big issue, the big issue's when we start putting applications in and it starts costing a bit of money.
"We won't be spending the $20,000 until the committee makes a recommendation to council I guess."
Cr Richie Williamson pointed out this proposed new committee would be additional to the one run by the Office of Environment and Heritage.
"They have a process and they are funding the process and that should continue," he said.
"The committee's name here is around the dispersal of and, at time, frank discussion that could be in disagreement to their way of thinking at the moment and that's just a fact.
"This is not to replace their committee, it's an additional tool and it's a Clarence Valley Council committee."
Cr Greg Clancy said the new committee would create conflicting policies in councils between co-existence and dispersal.
"I don't think there are any legal means by which you can disperse without costing council large amounts of money, which I oppose," he said.
"If the council wants to run this committee, I think it's a waste of time, but I'm sure I'll be outvoted."
Cr Baker replied that the two committees would have different aims and objectives.
"It may be that one will prevail," he said. "It may be that over time the ambition of both may find ways to coincide.
"But without an ambition to find a lawful means of dispersal we'll be letting down the people who feel badly affected both by the flying foxes' current location and by the lack of recognition that coexistence doesn't work for them."
He said the dispersal committee may not achieves its aims, but could lead to an outcome of a buffer zone to keep flying foxes away from people.
"I've heard people say 50m is enough," he said. "I've heard others say that 300m separation between residential and the flying fox camps would be okay.
"I believe the community could co-exist with the flying fox camps if there was a 300m area of separation.
"But that would take the working group to recognise that there are people involved here as well."
The committee voted 3-2 to create the new committee and draft and have a constitution drafted.