Maclean High School Teachers Federation Australia rep John Ambrose speaks to the crowd at a meeting held at the school to discuss the bat population.
Maclean High School Teachers Federation Australia rep John Ambrose speaks to the crowd at a meeting held at the school to discuss the bat population. Adam Hourigan

Either the bats go, or we go

MACLEAN High School's Teachers Federation representative John Ambrose has declared that either the bats go, or the school does.

The call came at a public meeting on the issue in the teacher's car park of the high school yesterday, where concerned parents and residents alike gathered under rumbling storm clouds and screeching bats.

Mr Ambrose said staff at the school were frustrated by the lack of action on the bat problem, which has been ongoing since they were originally dispersed from the school grounds in 1999.

"The co-existence model, according to staff, is an abject failure, and we call for that to be reassessed," Mr Ambrose said.

"The result of the co-existing plan was that two large gum trees were removed to prevent roosting on school grounds", a move that Mr Ambrose said hasn't worked.

"The evidence is that over the last 20 years, the destruction of rainforest to now the damage to trees next to the western carpark shows that co-existence cannot work.

"It's a simple choice. (The bats) go, or at great cost to the State Government, we go. We've been saying this for 20 years."

Maclean High School's bat problem: The flying foxes roosting near Maclean High School were the subject of a public meeting, where concerns were raised over the threat to staff and student's health and safety.
Maclean High School's bat problem: The flying foxes roosting near Maclean High School were the subject of a public meeting, where concerns were raised over the threat to staff and student's health and safety.

Mr Ambrose said the NSW Department of Education has responsibilities regarding safety and providing sanitary conditions if the school was to co-exist with the flying fox colony.

"Eight years ago I visited the then Minister of Education Verity Firth and passed on what staff perceived as necessary to co-exist with the bats," he said.

"The practicality of running a school does not sit with a co-existence strategy. Whistles and bells disturb the flying foxes during sport and PE classes, and you can't run a school with silent athletics carnivals, sport and PE classes.

"What we're stuck with now is a school that has in most areas, no access to hot water. Change rooms and kitchens have hot water and they are locked. Students using courts and fields do not have easy access to soap or antiseptic hand wash or hot water."

Mr Ambrose said with flying fox numbers increasing over the years, there was genuine concern over the growing risk of infection by direct contact with the flying foxes or their faecal droppings.

Concerned parent Raymond Cameron

Ray Cameron speaks at the Maclean High bats meeting.
Ray Cameron speaks at the Maclean High bats meeting. Adam Hourigan

WITH four children at Maclean High School, Mr Cameron said he was angry nothing had been done to remove the bats from around the school, adversely affecting students' education.

"Recently sport has been moved from the oval because of the bat droppings, the kids are walking 20 minutes down to Wherrett Park," he said.

"I thought sport was a vital part of a child's education?

"All we hear is that dispersal is a complex and sensitive issue, but dispersals have happened and have been successful numerous times."

Fed up Maclean resident Lex Essex

Lex Essex speaks to the Maclean High School bats meeting
Lex Essex speaks to the Maclean High School bats meeting Adam Hourigan

FOR almost 90 years, Mr Essex has lived in Maclean, and remembers as a child playing in the rainforest, which was so thick only a few beams of light would break through the canopy.

"After the flying foxes have come through, they've completely destroyed it," he said.

"There's so many of them, they just keep breaking off the foliage.

"I've lived all my life here in town, and I've had six great-grandchildren out here now, and I can guarantee there were no bats here when my kids were going to school there. They would easily be dispersed with some noise, they'd keep moving."

Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis

Chris Gulaptis speaks to the Maclean High bats meeting.
Chris Gulaptis speaks to the Maclean High bats meeting. Adam Hourigan

WITH previous experience in moving bats along from around Maclean High School, Mr Gulaptis said he would support efforts to disperse the flying foxes again.

"I was here in 1999 when we did have a dispersal and I can assure you that dispersal works," he said.

"I'm a long-term resident of Maclean, I've lived here for 36 years and I think that dispersal is the only answer."

Mr Gulaptis said the rainforest where the bats first started to roost was now completely destroyed, and encouraged the community to continue to push for action.