By Sally Gordon
Residents claim a massive colony of bats that has set up camp in mangroves at Iluka is disrupting people's lives and causing major environmental damage.
The colony, made up of thousands of bats ? or flying foxes ? initially roosted in Iluka's river bank mangroves about two years ago.
Since then, residents who live near the water's edge from Spenser Street to Marandowie Drive, have been living with around-the-clock bat screeching, trails of bat droppings and a rotten stench.
Those who live closest to the colony say health issues are a major concern, with a number of households calling for authorities to take control of the environmental nightmare.
Graham Bolton, who lives at the end of Spenser Street, said he and his wife were surviving on an average of three hours sleep a night.
"Basically, it's got to the stage where you end up having about three to four hours sleep at the most and then you're awake from 2.30am onwards with them screeching and carrying on," he said.
Mr Bolton said that since the bats moved into the area, the colony had increased almost five times in size. The abundance of bats through the mangroves had caused degradation.
"The colony has increased four- or five-fold ? at a guesstimate there would be a million bats.
"THE sky is black with bats as they fly over the river," he said.
Cave Street residents Noel and Dawn Everson said that over the past two years the colony had virtually destroyed a 500- to 600metre stretch of forest.
The Iluka Ratepayers' Association has been called in to help residents lobby council, the Carr Government and relevant government departments.
Association secretary Pat Shepherd claims that so far no-one, including the Clarence Valley Council and the National Parks and Wildlife Service, (NPWS) were prepared to get involved.
Mr Everson and Mr Bolton believe the bat colony is the same one that plagued the Maclean High School for years and sparked an intense political row over the moves to evict it.
Australian National University senior lecturer Chris Tidemann, who was instrumental in the relocation of the bat colony at Maclean in April 1999, said the colony at Iluka was not the same group.
Clarence Valley Council has confirmed the strip of river bank is crown land and managed by the NSW Department of Lands.
NPWS media officer Lawrence Orel said the service had met with residents to explain the situation with flying foxes.