AFTER waiting with “bat-bated breath”, the Gayndah community has finally been given permission to move on up to 300,000 flying foxes that have plagued the town for 10 months.
The decision may give some hope to residents in Bargara, who are facing their own battle of the bats following a colony of thousands roosting on residential land on Woongarra Scenic Dr.
North Burnett Mayor Joy Jensen said the approval to have the Little Red flying foxes relocated was granted by the Department of Environment and Resource Management late yesterday.
Cr Jensen said the approval came with special conditions that would not be made available entirely until BioSecurity Queensland and DERM met with the council in Gayndah later today.
“We will not be able to move the bats until the babies are mature enough to fly, which is about four weeks,” she said.
“We are very cautious of the devil being in the detail.”
Cr Jensen, who joked that residents had been waiting with “bat-bated breath” on the decision, said the council was concerned it would be left to relocate the bats. .
“To get 300,000 bats airborne and confused would cause a horrible situation for the town of Gayndah,” she said.
DERM conservation, strategy and planning general manager Clive Cook said the damage mitigation permit would allow the council to remove the branches where the flying foxes roosted.
“Removal of the branches will take place while the flying foxes are absent from the roost to discourage them from resettling at that location,” he said.
Mr Cook did not confirm whether the department would actively assist the council to shift the colony.
Bargara residents will be watching developments in Gayndah closely, including Sunseeker Ave woman Patricia Waghorn, who dreads 4am each day – when thousands of bats return to roost in the trees of a privately owned property in Woongarra Scenic Dr.
“They also make a lot of noise at night when they’re circulating before they take off,” she said.
Mrs Waghorn said the coastal community was fed up with the colony, which swooped in late last year.
“The sky just goes black when they take off – it’s a bit scary,” she said.
Bundaberg Regional Council natural resource management spokesman Danny Rowleson said that, because the bat-infested property was privately owned, the council’s involvement was “very minimal”.
“But council has lobbied BioSecurity Queensland and DERM to have one of their officers come here and evaluate our situation,” he said.
The property’s owner, who is in Europe on business at the moment, is believed to be drafting a damage mitigation permit application to submit to DERM in coming weeks.
“We’ll be supporting his application – we don’t believe the bats should continue to roost there,” Cr Rowleson said.
DERM did not comment on its findings following an evaluation of the colony in Bargara.
Independent Member for Burnett Rob Messenger has continued his crusade against bats carrying the deadly hendra virus and other fatal diseases, and has called on the government to test the colony in Bargara.
“Any bat colony that tests positive for deadly diseases must be destroyed,” he said.
Mr Messenger said plagues of bat colonies in residential areas would take its toll on residents.
However, DERM has also announced that a $40,000 research project would be carried out to monitor and investigate the impacts of dispersal of flying fox colonies on their ecology, stress and risk of the virus.
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