Politicians are backing students and residents in calls for urgent action about bats.
Politicians are backing students and residents in calls for urgent action about bats.

Ministers must act on bat issue

POLITICAL representatives from all three levels of government have called for urgent action on the Maclean High School flying fox issue.

In three separate statements this week, Clarence Valley Mayor Richie Williamson, State Member for Clarence Steve Cansdell and Federal Member for Cowper Luke Hartsuyker all expressed dissatisfaction at the situation at Maclean.

Last week the Maclean High School Parents and Citizen Association withdrew in frustration from the working group set up to address health and workplace concerns.

“It is clear the bureaucrats at both levels aren’t listening to Maclean’s cries for help and the only way they will do something is if they get direct orders from their ministers,” Mr Cansdell said.

“The only way forward is for both levels to cooperate, but at the moment they are playing ping-pong with the problem, while students and teachers at Maclean High School are literally being shat on.

“Unless NSW’s latest environment minister, Frank Sartor, and his federal counterpart, Peter Garrett, pull their finger out, someone in Maclean is going to get badly hurt or sick from bat faeces.

“Two of Australia’s top flying fox experts have looked at the problem and both agree the only solution is dispersal.”

Mr Cansdell referred to Dr Chris Tiddemann, who instigated the 1999 bat dispersal program, and Dr John Nelson, from Monash University, who endorsed a similar strategy for the current colony.

“We know how to do it without harming the bats; it is just a matter of governments facing up to their responsibilities to Maclean families,” Mr Cansdell said.

“Next month marks the end of the breeding season and it is the ideal time to act.”

Mr Hartsuyker described the treatment of the students at the hands of various government departments as deplorable.

“The Working Group was nothing more than a bureaucratic smokescreen to do nothing to ease the concerns of the school and surrounding residents,” he said.

Mr Hartsuyker said the State Government had neglected to provide a safe environment for the school community, while the Federal Government had told residents they wouldn’t support a licence application to have the flying foxes removed.

“I am calling on the Federal Member for Page, Janelle Saffin, to join me in a bipartisan approach to resolving this issue. More than 50 per cent of the school community live in her electorate,” he said.

“An application to have the bats removed needs to be lodged and approved without delay.”

Mr Williamson said a decision needed to be made as to whether the site was going to be a house a flying fox colony or a high school.

“It appears the two cannot coexist in the form they are in now,” he said.

Ms Saffin’s office was contacted late yesterday and her response will be published tomorrow.

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