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Singleton residents rally to get their park back from bats

Around two hundred angry Singleton residents peacefully voiced their concerns about the town’s ongoing bat problem on Sunday morning.

Singleton residents rally to rid park of bats.

The well organised rally managed to attract the attention of member for the Upper Michael Johnsen, Hunter MP Joel Fitzgibbon and the regional manager, Office of Environment & Heritage Andrew McIntyre.

Joel Fitzgibbon speaks at Singleton bat rally.

Fittingly as the various speakers addressed the crowd they were often interrupted by the raucous flying foxes, who were putting on quite a show after being disturbed by the chants of passing participants.

For the past 16 years Singleton residents have watched an ever-increasing flying fox colony destroy historic trees, desecrate the war memorials and deter people from visiting the museum.
Once a popular meeting place, they have seen event after event moved to other locations.

But the park’s recent closure due to overloaded branches crashing to the ground has re-ignited the debate.

Member for the Upper Hunter, Michael Johnsen told a vocal crowd there is only one reason why their ongoing bat problem has not been fixed - bureaucracy.

Although it is ultimately Council’s responsibility to manage the bat colony as they own the land, Mr Johnsen pointed out they have not been able to do this because of restrictive government policies and legislation.

“The owner of land is responsible for managing the bat colony, the owner of the land is Council but how can they look after it with both their hands tied behind their back, at both a State and Federal level,” he said.

“The state plays a role in helping land managers implement options for different types, and sizes of bat colonies and they also have the grey headed flying fox listed as vulnerable, but in 1999 the Federal Government through the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act came in and took an overarching role.”

“So if Councils, for example, want to cut down trees or cull the bats, or do any of those sorts of management programs, it needs to get approval from the Federal Government.”

Unfortunately, Mr Johnsen said sometimes bureaucrats within the various departments have no idea what it is like to live around these problems - or the extent of the problem here in Singleton.

His federal counterpart, Joel Fitzgibbon, agreed and both vowed to work together to finally fix the conundrum.

Despite all the talk of cooperation and local voices being heard, it soon became apparent a solution is a long way off.

As suggestions like chopping down the trees were welcomed by some, yet condemned by others.

Many inappropriate strategies were put out there; while others questioned where will the bats go if we move them on?

“No matter where you live in Singleton they are there,” resident Rhonda Zanardi, told The Argus.

“We will never be able to use the park until we get rid of them.”

Turning to a young boy by her side, she pointed out the bat faeces on the shoulder of his white shirt.

Mr Johnsen says after coming to the rally, the regional manager of the Office of Environment & Heritage Andrew McIntyre will meet with Council this week.


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BatsRule!: Singleton residents rally to get their park back from bats
Singleton residents rally to get their park back from bats
Singleton residents rally to get their park back from bats
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