HEALTH RISK: Flying foxes in the rainforest outside Maclean High School. PHOTO: ADAM HOURIGAN
HEALTH RISK: Flying foxes in the rainforest outside Maclean High School. PHOTO: ADAM HOURIGAN

10,000 signatures needed for flying fox petition

TEN THOUSAND signatures are needed to get the ongoing flying fox issue back on the political table.

Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis will today launch a petition in an attempt to have legislation loosened around the management of colonies in urban areas.

Mr Gulaptis said the impact flying foxes had on residents - and in the case of Maclean, schoolchildren and staff - needed to be brought to the surface.

"Twenty thousand or 30,000 domestic animals like cats, dogs, rabbits and poultry are not permitted to be kept in urban areas because of health risks, yet the same number of flying foxes, with a far greater risk to health, is acceptable to government agencies," Mr Gulaptis said.

"This is clearly illogical when people have died from lyssavirus and hendra virus carried by the bats."

He said if the petition gathered 10,000 signatures it would go to Parliament for debate.

"Under the current legislation there are too many restrictions on the current dispersal licence in Maclean to make it effective," Mr Gulaptis said.

"The only solution is dispersal from the urban area.

"Ideally, the relevant government agencies, the wildlife experts, should be charged with the responsibility of dispersing (them)."

Maclean High School principal Tony Carr is backing him all the way.

"It has been ongoing for more than 15 years and we've got 1100 students trying to co-exist, but it's unrealistic and other measures have to be considered," Mr Carr said.

He said the school cleaners had to deal with mess left by the bats every morning and the smell of the animals forced students to stay inside hot classrooms, unable to open windows.

Mr Carr encouraged everyone to sign the petition, just to get the topic raised.

"It's not about having an opinion one way or the other. It's irrespective of your viewpoint. It's a debate that needs to be had," Mr Carr said.

Ecologist Greg Clancy said he understood people would not want to live right next to the bats, but moving them from the historical site at Maclean was not an option.

He had an idea of his own.

"The bats need to be somewhere. You can't wipe them out - they've tried and it didn't work," Dr Clancy said.

"What we need to do is think about all the projects done so far and think whether or not it would have been cheaper to move the school. There's the solution."

He said if the school was moved, the land along the riverbank could be revegetated to cater for the colonies.

But, Mr Carr said he didn't think the education department would be too keen on the idea of uprooting an entire campus after investing millions into their new infrastructure.

The petition will be launched at 11am today at the western car park of Maclean High School.

The plan is to gain statewide support to get the 10,000 signatures.

Federal Member for Cowper Luke Hartsuyker and Clarence Valley Mayor Richie Williamson will also attend the event to show their support.

The petition will be available at some businesses throughout the Clarence Valley, at Mr Gulaptis's office, as well as the offices of Luke Hartsuyker and Kevin Hogan.

If any businesses would like to display a petition, phone Debbie at Chris Gulaptis's office on 6643 1244.



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