A plan to provide urgent relief to Batemans Bay residents suffering under the impact of flying foxes was announced today by Minister for Environment Greg Hunt, and Member for Gilmore Ann Sudmalis.
The five-point plan will free the Eurobodalla Shire Council to take urgent non-lethal action to disperse the town’s flying fox colony, while providing support and research into a permanent solution to the problem. The five-point plan consists of immediate, short and medium-term actions.
• Assist the Eurobodalla Shire Council to identify successful methods to disperse flying foxes, building on its draft dispersal plan.
• Seek an exemption under national environment law so dispersal can commence immediately.
• Commit $50,000 for scientists from the National Environmental Science Programme to ensure the problem doesn’t return or move to another community.
In the short term:
• Work with Council towards a conservation agreement which gives certainty for the community to be able to carry out future dispersal activities if needed.
In the medium term (2017):
• Provide a Green Army team to strengthen alternative habitats for the flying foxes outside of Batemans Bay and other residential areas, renew local parks including the Clyde River National Park and Murramarang National Park, and rejuvenate local areas through the removal of invasive species and planting of native species.
“I commend Ann Sudmalis for her tireless work in bringing this plan together,” Mr Hunt said.
“We need to balance environmental protection with the need for communities to be able to protect themselves and their way of life. It is clear that the flying foxes are seriously affecting the community of Batemans Bay to the extent that something must be done,” he said.
“I have already asked some of the nation’s top scientists from the National Environment Science Programme to work with the Council on the flying fox problem.”
“As Minister for Environment in a re-elected Turnbull Government, I will also commit $50,000 to specific research into the management of flying foxes in urban areas, which will establish a trial of management solutions at Batemans Bay.”
“I have also directed the Department of the Environment to work with the Council on a Conservation Agreement which will give long term certainty to the Council for any actions it may need to take to prevent the flying fox colony from re-establishing in Batemans Bay.
“And I will seek to exempt Eurobodalla Shire Council from a long and expensive assessment process under Federal legislation so they can act immediately to use non-lethal methods to disperse flying foxes.”
“There is no question in my mind that it is in the national interest to do so. I would be happy to work on a similar approach with other towns experiencing the same problem.”
Member for Gilmore, Ann Sudmalis, said she was delighted that Minister Hunt had responded quickly to her request for urgent assistance with the town’s colony of grey-headed flying foxes, which are protected under Federal environment legislation.
“I took Eurobodalla Shire Mayor Lindsay Brown to Canberra to meet with Minister Hunt just four weeks ago to discuss this matter,” Mrs Sudmalis said.
“Mr Hunt understood immediately how difficult life had become for many Batemans Bay residents and pledged to work with the Council, the State Government and the community on finding a solution.”
“The flying foxes are really affecting people’s health. They make loud screeching noises, cause branches to fall from trees and create an overwhelming stench,” she said.
“The community is suffering mentally and physically from the noise and odour generated by the flying foxes. This problem requires all three levels of government to work together and I am delighted that the Federal Government is playing its part.”