Residents fired up for removal of bats
By ADRIAN MILLER
A COMMITTEE will be formed featuring Iluka residents and representatives from various government departments to rid Iluka of the flying-fox colony in Cave Street.
Nearly all of the approximately 200 people at yesterday's community meeting voted for the committee's formation after they heard speeches from residents, bat experts and government agencies on issues surrounding the colony.
Clarence MP Steve Cansdell, who chaired the meeting, said the committee would provide a more structured approach to the problem.
"What we are going to do now is coordinate the departments and the community, whereas before there was someone ringing up national parks and someone ringing up (the department of) Lands ? there were hospital passes going on everywhere," he said.
"We need to bring them all together to work out a solution."
Mr Cansdell said the committee would investigate how to move the bats safely and the costs associated with the program.
Ratepayers Association of Iluka president Geoff Prentice, who called the meeting, said it was obvious from the gathering what most people in Iluka wanted.
"I think the overwhelming majority of the people here today are representative of the community and are in agreement with the plan to move the bats," he said.
Resident Graham Bolton, who lives close to the bats in Cave Street, said it was a good start, but it needed to be followed up.
"It's a beginning, but action needs to start soon because we only have a small corridor to work in until most of them come back and I'm afraid with all the government departments it will get bogged down," he said.
However not all those present were satisfied with the outcome.
Iluka resident Jenny Hutchison, a staunch supporter of the bats, said she was unhappy with the outcome because no alternatives to moving the colony were explored.
"I think we should be looking at all models that have been used in bat problems previously," she said.
"Maybe moving them is the only option and we couldn't explore tourist options but I'm saying we need to explore them before we decided anything.
The crowd voted after hearing from residents living close to the colony, Clarence Valley councillors Doug Mackenzie and Chris Gulaptis, the National Parks and Wildlife Services north coast regional general manager Alan Jeffery, Department of Lands' representative David McPherson, North Coast Public Health Unit director Greg Bell and flying-fox expert Dr Chris Tiddeman.
Dr Tiddeman, who was a consultant in moving a flying-fox colony from Maclean, said moving the colony could be done, but it would not be easy.
"The key is persistence and a zero-tolerance policy. When you start you can't stop, and you will have to repeat it a number of times but the frequency at which it will need to be repeated will decrease," he said.
In a heated meeting where verbal attacks on speakers were frequent, Mr Cansdell at times found it difficult to control the crowd.
Ms Hutchison said she believed the tone of the meeting meant many people who wished to speak were scared.
"They're not giving us a fair hearing, and Mr Cansdell saying all the greenies are unemployed so they could have been there shows how skewed the meeting was to start with," she said.
"We didn't get a chance to speak because we were howled down from the start and so we were misrepresented totally."