Councillors agree bats must go. But how and where?
THE rapid expansion of the flying fox camp near Maclean High School has spurred the Clarence Valley Council into action, but just what action it cannot say.
The council is about to spend $68,000 on habitat modification near the camp, but this was not enough for a number of councillors, including Cr Andrew Baker.
In addition to these measures, he moved council "implement all other lawful actions necessary to expedite the dispersal and continuing vacancy of the flying fox colonies located in the vicinity of the residences, cemeteries, high school and TAFE college around Jubilee, Kerry, Cameron and Woombah Streets, Maclean and within 100 metres of any other Clarence Valley Council area residential zone where the colony location is subject of nearby resident complaint".
When asked what price tag would be on these "lawful actions" Cr Baker replied "I've got no idea. They couldn't go ahead without coming back to council for approval in the budget or otherwise," Cr Baker said.
Cr Richie Williamson successfully moved to amend the motion to include a provision that "no Clarence Valley Council funds on the 'lawful' action be spent on the dispersal before council approval".
The Maclean flying fox colony has inspired a role reversal among councillors.
Sometimes chided for taking idealistic positions, the Greens' Cr Greg Clancy took the opportunity to instruct councillors on the practicalities.
"I don't like seeing motions going nowhere," Cr Clancy said.
"The problem is there are a large number of flying foxes in the Maclean area and we have built houses, schools and cemeteries in their area.
"It's a result of bad planning years ago. Originally that area was about 10ha of rainforest.
"Over the years it has been whittled away by the addition of a showground, cemetery and a school."
Cr Clancy said the history of attempts to move the Maclean flying fox camp should be instructive.
"It costs a lot of money to move bats on, but where do they go?" he said. "They're pushed into other areas where they're not wanted."
He said Maclean was experiencing an influx of bats because little red flying foxes were arriving to join the grey headed and black flying foxes already in the area.
"They're going to be around for the next few months because of the blossom."
He said the random arrival of flying foxes at the camps was a major reason previous dispersal attempts had failed.
"They're coming and going all the time," he said. "They go where the food is. They've got no choice."
Cr Clancy said he sympathised with the people living near flying foxes, but said the answer should be to move things like the school away from the bats.
Cr Peter Ellem took up this idea, arguing the council should lobby the state and federal members to have a new school built at Townsend.
He said his three daughters had attended the school and were terrified of the bats, but said any measures to disperse were Band-aids.
"The bats will keep coming back," he said.
Clarence Valley mayor Jim Simmons was dismissive of the idea.
"You talk about moving the school," he said.
"You may as well talk about moving the whole of Maclean.
"I was just talking to a resident who had never had bats behind her place and she had them during those really high temperatures.
"You're joking if you think they're contained to the camp near the high school."
Cr Novak attempted an amendment to speak to local members about a new school, but this was defeated.
Cr Williamson likened the bats to bad neighbours that needed sorting out.
"We've got to try to offer residents something," he said.