The flying foxes in the rainforest outside Maclean High school. Photo: Adam Hourigan / The Daily Examiner.
The flying foxes in the rainforest outside Maclean High school. Photo: Adam Hourigan / The Daily Examiner. Adam Hourigan

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.

 

Chiroptera, the scientific name for bats, means hand winged. A bat's wing is just like that of a human hand, except the four fingers are elongated and are connected by wing membrane. This flaying fox was caught as part of the Maclean High School Flying Fox Tracking Program at Reedy Creek Nature Reserve Yamba NSW Australia. He is a black flying fox and was also given a tracking device No: 114179 with the name Wayne - caught Wednesday morning (9/5). First night tagged he flew a huge 32 km south east to Sandon River to feed in coastal Paperbark forest on Thursday night.  PHOTO: Debrah Novak
DISPERSED BAT: This flying fox was caught as part of the Maclean High School Flying Fox Tracking Program at Reedy Creek Nature Reserve Yamba in May, 2012. This black flying fox was given a tracking device one morning. On the first night after being tagged he flew 32km south east to Sandon River to feed in coastal paperbark forest. Debrah Novak

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."

 

An A Current Affair Camera Crew film Maclean residents concerned about the flying fox problem in the town for an episode that will air next week
HUMAN INVOLVEMENT: A Current Affair camera crew film Maclean residents concerned about the flying fox problem in the town.

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.