Live blog from Batemans Bay's bat meeting Megabat Fruit Bat Flying foxes

6.48pm: A mother of a nine-week baby and two year old said she could not “open my windows, I have been diagnosed with depression, the reason for that is the bats, I cannot leave my house. They go day and night. My two year old will not sleep in his own bed.”“if the councillors vote no, can I speak to them? My two year old says, we just have to make the bats move.”

She said a visit to her home, and “I guarantee they (councillors) will change their minds”.

She wondered if residents would get compensation for a high water bill for cleaning.

“We will have to have that conversation,” Mr Brown said.

“Ours was $90 more this quarter,” she said.

Mr Brown said the problem was being considered.

Sally Padey, of Mogo Zoo, said for the council, “the gun is loaded, the bullets are in, it’s time, not that we shoot the bats, but the trigger has to be pulled”.

Ms Padey said the Water Garden needed to be cleaned up, “but we do not need to bring the bulldozers in”. She said a worker who lived on Heron Road was ill due to the bats.

Gabi Harding was also present at the meeting.

Ms Padey called for a council meeting earlier than May 27.

“I love the bats, but I can see they are having such a huge impact where they should not,” she said.

She asked Mr Hunt why there had not been surveys on what could be causing concentrations of bats in urban areas.

“I don’t condone everyone going out to slaughter (flying foxes,” she said, but she called for action.

“The gloves have been taken off, we have to unite, stay calm,” she said.

“Will you pull all the councillors together to have a special meeting?” she asked Cr Brown.

“Yes, we can do that,” Mr Brown replied.

He promised at a briefing on Tuesday morning, May 17, to raise the issue with councillors and call for a meeting “as soon as possible”.

Trish Hellier than asked if culling was being considered.

Mr Hunt said he would seek fresh advice on the status of flying foxes.

6.25pm: A woman said question time was supposed to go for 45 minutes and feared the community was being silenced.

“A community that shows up here to show how strongly they feel deserves to be heard,” she said.

Ian Campbell said time was set aside for people to have conversations with agency representatives.

The woman asked how many people wanted this, but only three people raised their hands.

She preferred more time for questions.

Ian Campbell asked if 15 more minutes was wanted and it was granted.

A man presented a leaflet on the possible role of birds of prey.

Dr David Westacott is due to make a presentation in the next room. He is coordinating the national flying fox monitoring program.

Mr Hunt said: “Let’s have by Friday a set of initial steps”, then a two, six and eight week plans.

A resident said the council should door knock all residents and survey to check if people have contracted illnesses and are housebound.

“We have a power problem. Who has the power to take a decision. I don’t believe the council and the mayor can do it. The power should be with the taskforce, and backed by Mr Hunt and Mr Constance, not with the council. We have waited too long for the council to act. The community will trust you sir, welcome, and we will put our power with you. You said you would act within the week, the council cannot even have a meeting within a fortnight, to loud cheers and applause.

Ann Sudmalis said metaphorically “a gun was now loaded” and aimed at council and the community wanted action.

Mr Brown was heckled from the floor, but said the council would be very wise to take on board what the community had said at the meeting.

Mr Schneider again called for people to come forward with health problems.

Damien Rogers, of Moruya, said bats were now all over the shire.

“Are we talking about getting rid about all these colonies in all urban areas right across the shire?’ Mr Rogers asked.

He said if it does not work, culling may be required. He said a formal state of emergency would enable culling.

Mr Brown said the plan would also monitor and move on flying foxes from other areas if they were dispersed to them from Batemans Bay.

Batemans Bay was the focus now, but he was concerned about potential impacts on other areas.

Meanwhile, a sailor said vaccination should be extended, as “we are covered with faeces, we cannot go on our yachts, we are not allowed to use detergent in the marina”.

Mr Constance said the community was facing “extraordinary circumstances that required extraordinary action”.

Mr Constance said another community removed 20,000 bats for a little more than $800,000.

“I hope you like heavy metal, because that is what worked,” he said.

“I don’t care what anyone says, there are more than 120,000 bats there.

“We have to give (dispersal) the best chance to work. I believe the food source is coming off the blossom.”

He said there was evidence that numbers were declining.

“If we see natural dispersal in the next couple of weeks, then we hit them with dispersal, then we have the best chance of success.

“I am going to have a certain premier down in the next couple of weeks. Mike (Baird) is acutely aware of it. I cannot and am not going to be dictated to by consultants. I do not believe a $6.2 million, two year program is what our community needs.”

6.14pm: A male speaker said logging and wood chips could well be having an impact on dispersing bats into urban areas.

He called for an end to these practices, but was heckled by some in the audience.

“We have created this problem,” he said.

A female resident feared mental health issues were growing. She did not want a decision taken back to councillors “for another vote”.

She feared councillors who did not live in Batemans Bay would not support action and challenged Mr Brown to say if he would support action.

“I am confident the council will vote in support,” Mr Brown said.

Another man said he had lived here for 27 years. He was concerned about curbs on development.

“We have had nothing from this council in terms of progress for several years … and these bats don’t help,” he said.

Mr Brown said the council was already working closely with developers on several sites.

“The council killed this town,” a woman shouted.

A man said he was being driven “insane”. He said too much money had been spent on a “so-called study, but what has actually happened? Nothing.”

Trish Hellier said she was on tank water said “we are being invaded at night for the past couple of years”.

They are increasing. We also have possums. We have a lot of noise at night, continually fighting between the bats and the possums. It is time we came together as a community,” she said.

She said she was “glad this red tape is being cut tonight”.

If we can get strategic people in strategic areas. It is Eurobodalla wide. It is not just Batemans Bay, it flows on.”

6.08pm: Lindsay Brown said he hoped they would move as quickly as possible.

Ann Sudmalis said she hoped a plan would be ready by the end of the week.

Ian Campbell asked to cut the numbers of speakers short.

“Give them a break,” a man shouted.

“We don’t want to hear from bureaucrats.”

A female resident wondered if the health department would say if there had been a “spike in health problems”. She feared that might cause “anarchy”.

Andrew Constance said please bring your health concerns forward. He said he would seek advice from GPs and Mr Schneider would raise it with the health board.

He hoped health professionals would bring any concerns that they might have forward.

The woman said she had a health survey she hoped residents would fill in.

6.03pm: Russell Schneider said he wanted “D Day” and a sense of urgency.

“The people are ready, willing and able” to participate in ridding (the community) of this problem.

He welcomed Greg Hunt’s “commitment to removing all the green tape” that sits in the way of solving the problem.

I am delighted the minister has suggested a series of rolling action plans, “ so we are not waiting for another 12 months hoping”.

“If you don’t have the problem today, you will have it” sooner or later, Mr Schneider said.

He called for the community to report new roosting sites.

He said D Day “was something like” June 4.

Another six people are waiting to speak.

Andrew Constance said Mr Hunt’s announcement had “shifted the goal posts”.

“Yes, run your consultation process, but there are things that have to happen tomorrow,” he said.

That comment earned a round of applause.

5.55pm: Another speaker said councillors needed to support action now, not in six or nine or 12 months.

“Start with a series of actions, it does not have to be everything at once,” he said.

He supported the council paying for a controlled burn and cleaning the Water Garden.

A speaker from Long Beach asked why the community could not get the army in and burn them out, as was does in the Northern Territory.

“Why can’t you do that, why are you talking about the Green Army,” he said.

Mr Hunt said the community would be given complete freedom to do as the community chose.

“We don’t trust the council,” a woman shouted from the floor.

Another said if they got “a dozer down in the morning, I would clean it up for free”.

Mention was then made of a male extremity.

A new resident, Joseph, said “we are all fighting against each other”.

5.53pm: A man living in Bavarde Avenue. “When you do get rid of the bats, you need to come through and clean the houses,” he said. He said people on tank water were affected. “Everything is

5.46pm: Lindsay Brown said any plan would have to voted on and approved by councillors. This earned some jeers.

Gail Vincent said her house could be seen from the Soldiers Club. She said she had been reading the reports, but felt the council had been scammed by spending more money on “talkers”.

“I have been getting more and more sick, I am OK at the moment because it rained and I could wash my car and open my windows,” she said.

She said the same thing happened last year when the bats flew off when it was cold, “because at last I could have some sort of life”.

“How many people are getting really sick from the bats?

“We have kept it to ourselves because we are all so bloody depressed and stuck in our houses.”

She called for a health support group to be formed.

Andrew Constance replied, saying he welcomed Russell Schneider’s presence on the task force, as he was also on the health board.

He said he had heard that GPs might be picking up concerning issues.

“Depression is a real problem,” he said.

“If you are suffering depression, anxiety … if you are prisoner in your own home … we want to hear about it,” he said.

“Then solve the problem,” a female woman shouted.

5.40pm: Another male resident said: “I have not been able to open my house for 10 weeks.”

He said he worked in Canberra during the week and “I come home on Friday and my wife is in tears. The wetlands has three feet of fuel in that wetland. put the fire under the bastards and they will move.

“You have a responsibility not to move them in two years, two weeks! Otherwise you will find people in this community might do it themselves.”

He said the community, with the RFS, had the resources on the ground to use fire to move the flying fox colonies now.

“Shift the bastards, no excuses,” he said.

Genevieve from Catalina asks if “no barriers” means we “can cut the trees down, otherwise it does not make sense”.

Andrew Constance said dispersal has to include revegetation.

“Dispersal has to include the management of the she oaks at the back of Heron Road.

Greg Hunt said the council would be given a free hand and environmental issues would be worked through. The status of endangered is no barrier to dispersal.

“It is our watch now,” Mr Hunt said.

5.34pm: Questions are now being taken from the floor.

Sally, of Catalina, asked when was the water garden going to be cleaned out. When will they take out the trees, clean out the water and make it into a park (we can enjoy).

Mr Brown said the Green Army would be used to help clean up the Water Garden, but the council must liaise with the Office of Environment and Heritage. It must be pumped out by tank and taken to the treatment works, which would leave a muddy basin.

The resident said the community paid rates for all this land, but “we can’t use it because it is infested with bats and bat shit”

“It is a cess pit.”

The resident symphathised with Mr Brown’s position, but said “it should never have got to this,” she said, which earned a round of applause.

Another resident feared people were suffering from pneumonia as a result from the colony.

“At what point does an endangered species get reviewed?” she asked.

“We have paid for experts, let’s hear from one.”

5.30pm: An audience member demanded action now and said the Labor Party could do better. He was heckled by other audience members.

“We have to make sure we give ourselves the best chance. We have to have vaccinated people on the ground,” Mr Constance said.

“We have seen it tried in other places with varying success. We have not seen it tried with these numbers.”

Mr Constance said the community would not be governed by consultants, but the community must manage the risk of the bats moving to other residential areas.

“I am urging you all to put a submission in,” he said, regarding the council’s community consultation.

5.28pm: A woman from the audience said she was still suffering phone outages, but Mr Constance said battery power in the towers had been extended.

5.23pm: ”We should not have to be here, but we are,” Bega MP Andrew Constance said.

“People who cannot hang their clothes out, people who have basically held hostage.

“We are in uncharted territory. We have one hell of a problem.”

He said the situation of a bat colony quickly going from about 20,000 to more than 120,000 was an unusual situation.

“Dispersal is our only option,” he said.

Mr Constance earned a round of applause when he said: “I am worried about residents suffering in silence. I am worried about the health of our community, about asthma, respiratory problems, I am worried about people’s mental health.”

“Enough is enough.”

“Council have got to move to dispersal. I don’t think the consultants when they say it will cost $6.2 million.”

He congratulated Milton Leslight and Liz Innes.

5.17pm: Ann Sudmalis says her first three emails from voters concerned the flying fox issue.

Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt says he was told this was the number one issue with regard to people and how they are living.

“We saw the water garden,” Mr Hunt said.

“Everything I heard about the challenge, it was bigger and louder and smelt worse and was a larger problem than anything I had heard.”

“There will be no barrier under the federal environment act for the council moving immediately on a dispersal plan. I have issued an instruction that we will grant a national interest exemption if the council seeks it.

He said it could be granted in 48 hours. It is something rarely done, but it has impact on all your lives.

Mr Hunt said ensuring the flying foxes did not move to impact on other areas was important.

He said he would have $50,000 available to help with this issue.

His department would create a conservation agreement with the council so they can keep taking action in the coming years.

The flying foxes must be moved “far away from human settlement” so a permanent solution was achieved.

He suggested the Green Army could be used.

He said additional funding would be available as soon as the council had finalised its dispersal plan.

5.15pm: Lindsay Brown says all three tiers of government are working together. “Please email and write to council as every submission will be read,” he said.

He said “we will leave no stone unturned” and “we will be doing everything possible” to make this happen as soon as possible.

5.11pm: The meeting is getting underway. Cheers for Andrew Constance, Liz Innes and Milton Leslight. Faint applause of Lindsay Brown – and some boos. Department of Health, Local Land Services, Office of Environment and Heritage and CSIRO are attending. The meeting is chaired by former ABC South East presenter Ian Campbell.

“People with living with the smell, the mess and the fears on a daily basis,” would get priority for questions.

5.05pm: In a surprise move, Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt is attending.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt, Bega MP Andrew Constance and Gilmore MP Ann Sudmalis at the Water Garden in Batemans Bay shortly before attending the meeting.

5pm: Batemans Bay’s community meeting on the issue of flying foxes spreading from the Water Garden is about to get underway.

A large crowd has gathered for the meeting, organised by Eurobodalla Shire Council at the Batemans Bay Soldiers Club.

Bat task force chair Russell Schneider is attending, with mayor Lindsay Brown and councillors Liz Innes and Milton Leslight.

The meeting will get underway when Bega MP Andrew Constance and Gilmore MP Ann Sudmalis.


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BATS. Megabats, Flying-foxes, Fruit bats and Microbats: Live blog from Batemans Bay's bat meeting Megabat Fruit Bat Flying foxes
Live blog from Batemans Bay's bat meeting Megabat Fruit Bat Flying foxes
Live blog from Batemans Bay's bat meeting Megabat Fruit Bat Flying foxes
BATS. Megabats, Flying-foxes, Fruit bats and Microbats
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