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Batemans Bay bat population set to be dispersed as Environment Minister steps in. Megabat Fruit Bat Flying foxes

More than 100,000 grey-headed flying foxes have descended on the community of Batemans Bay on the New South Wales far south coast.

Federal, state and local governments have joined forces to deal with issues surrounding the bats' arrival.

Community members said the endless screeching of the bats, together with the smell and droppings of faeces, had brought people to breaking point.

"Living with the flying foxes is like living in a prison," local resident Danielle Smith said.

"They just screech all day and night. I honestly can't open my windows.

"I can't even walk out the back to hang out my washing.

"My two-year-old son won't sleep in his bedroom because he's too frightened."
Another resident, Kim Swadling, said, "I don't want to live with bats any more. They shouldn't be in urban areas. People are beside themselves."

The migratory bats colonise the town each season when native trees are flowering, and have been increasing in numbers.
Bats become federal issue with visit by Environment Minister

Such is the anguish of the community that hundreds of people showed up for what quickly became a heated Eurobodalla Shire Council consultation session to review a proposed flying fox dispersal plan.

The Mayor must show the spine ... to ensure there is immediate resolution to dispersal action.
Andrew Constance, Member for Bega

And it quickly became a hot federal and state issue with the unannounced arrival of federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt, with federal Member for Gilmore Ann Sudmalis and NSW Member for Bega Andrew Constance.

Numerous community speakers made it clear they wanted the council to immediately put a dispersal plan into action, with a strong mood that the council had taken too long to deal the problem.

Mr Hunt and Mr Constance made commitments that all bureaucratic processes would be eased and fast tracked to allow the council to proceed.

"The message from the community is clear — the council must act," Mr Hunt said.

"The message from the state is clear — we will let you act. The message from the Commonwealth is clear — you have freedom to act and you must act."

PHOTO: Flying foxes at Catalina around 6pm

Mr Constance followed up in a statement to the ABC, saying: "The Mayor must show the spine to call an extraordinary meeting today to ensure there is immediate resolution to the dispersal action.

Commonwealth assistance
National interest exemption to allow dispersal of the vulnerable species of flying fox
Conservation agreement to manage the flying fox population in the long term
Provide a Green Army team

"They must instruct the staff to get on with actions in preparation for dispersal.

"They must look at further vegetation removal as of this week, and then of course ensure that dispersal action is brought on as quickly as possible."

Eurobodalla Shire Council Mayor Lindsay Brown said he had used his executive powers and there was no need for an extraordinary meeting.

"We want to get action as soon as possible, and that's what we'll be doing. We're throwing all resources we can at it," Cr Brown said.
Grey-headed flying foxes 'vulnerable to extinction'

Grey-headed flying foxes are listed by the Commonwealth and NSW Governments as a "vulnerable to extinction species", with the CSIRO estimating there are about 680,000 in Australia.

"We will give an exemption through the national interest exemption process so the council can take action," Mr Hunt said.

The dispersal plan is estimated to cost $6.2m over three years.

The council noted in the plan's risk assessment: "Dispersal activities have unpredictable outcomes, are very costly, require ongoing commitment and maintenance, are often not successful, and rarely achieve desirable outcomes for all stakeholders."

However, Mr Hunt said inaction was clearly not an option.

"I'm just not aware of any other colonies in urban areas where people live right in the middle that are this significant and this prolonged," he said.

Mr Hunt pointed to successful outcomes in northern NSW, Victoria and Queensland.

VIDEO: Grey headed flying foxes


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BatsRule!: Batemans Bay bat population set to be dispersed as Environment Minister steps in. Megabat Fruit Bat Flying foxes
Batemans Bay bat population set to be dispersed as Environment Minister steps in. Megabat Fruit Bat Flying foxes
Batemans Bay bat population set to be dispersed as Environment Minister steps in Megabat Fruit Bat Flying foxes
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