Queensland councils can’t control rogue bat populations despite spending $1m a year

Then premier Campbell Newman took action on bats in 2013.
RATEPAYERS are losing at least $1 million a year on failed attempts to deal with rogue bat populations, as local councils struggle with the growing problem.

The frank admission is contained in a Local Government Association of Queensland submission to the Federal Government’s inquiry into the impact of flying foxes on eastern communities.

The submission calls for state and federal governments to take control of the borderless problem.

The LGAQ claims local authorities were on a “treadmill” of regular dispersal activities, which still failed 40 per cent of the time, to remove massive flying fox populations.

“Responses from only eight local governments to a recent information request by the LGAQ revealed almost a million dollars a year of additional expenditure on flying fox ­management,” the submission reads.

“Based on the LGAQ’s most recent assessment, the LGAQ found that 41 of 77 councils had community complaints about urban flying-fox roosts.”

It estimated the cost for each action to remove the creatures varied anywhere between $7500 to more than $400,000 in the most extreme cases.

Hinchinbrook Mayor Ramon Jayo said his small community became plagued by up to 100,000 of little red flying foxes at a time.

He said council refused to spend more than $20,000 a year on dispersing the creatures because it was a waste of money.

“All you do is chase them from one tree to another,” Cr Jayo said.

“It does not work. Then when you do shift them, you shift them into someone else’s council area where they didn’t have a problem before.”

In 2013, the Newman government granted as-of-right authority for councils to move on flying fox populations from urban roosts. But councils remain restricted in how they can achieve that.

If followed intense public debate that reached boiling point after people died from contracting the Hendra virus, which is carried by bats.

Councils have faced pressure to move on bat populations ever since.

The State Government has so far resisted calls to take ­control of the issue but this year it pledged $2.7 million over three years to study the bats’ behaviour.

In a separate submission to the inquiry, the World Wide Fund for Nature claims flying foxes are the ones under threat as governments continue to allow land clearing.

“In managing species such as the grey-headed flying fox at a regional scale, integrated responses between the states and policies that focus on ­habitat conservation and enhancement are essential,” the WWF’s submission reads.

The WWF calls for “full and permanent protection on all known flying fox camps”.

Queensland warning over heat-affected bats
December 2, 2016 8:20pm

On top of conventional heatwave safety concerns, there are now warnings about bats falling from the sky.

As Queensland temperatures rise well into the 30s, two of the web-winged mammals have this week plummeted to the earth, prompting health alerts.

Queensland Health says bats, most particularly flying foxes, become affected by the heat and pose a risk to eager-to-help residents.

Dr Heidi Carroll from the Communicable Diseases Unit says people should avoid trying to help them if they don't know what they're doing.

"That's where we can run into trouble, because sometimes flying foxes carry Lyssavirus, which is a very deadly disease," Dr Carroll told AAP on Friday.

She said bats fall to the ground for a variety of reasons but at this time of year and especially as temperatures rise, the most common cause is heat.

"Across Queensland in the last week we're aware of at least two incidents where bats have fallen to the ground, and people have gone to help them," she said.

"We see over 200 cases per year where people have handled bats and need to call health officials.

"In recent weeks we've seen those numbers increasing, which we expected due to the increasing temperatures."

People who do find bats on the ground are urged to leave them alone and call a wildlife officer.

State Government under pressure to intervene in bat management
September 11, 2016

THE State Government faces mounting pressure to take control of flying fox populations as local councils struggle to deal with the creatures.

Moreton Bay Regional Council is expected to lead the call for State Government intervention into the contentious issue of bat management at the annual Local Government Association of Queensland conference next month.

If a motion pitched by the council is successful, it will become part of LGAQ policy to lobby the Government on the problem. Similar motions have been tendered by other councils at previous conferences.

Bat management has long been a hot-topic issue in Queensland, with the Katter Australian Party demanding the creatures be culled in urban areas in exchange for helping the Labor Party form government last year.

The KAP believes councils should be given complete autonomy to make decisions on how to handle the bats, including removing them or killing them.

But Moreton Bay Mayor Allan Sutherland said he believed culling flying foxes should only be used as a “last resort”.

“I’d like to explore all other avenues before we have people going out to blast flying foxes,” Cr Sutherland said.

Councils were granted an “as-of-right” authority to manage flying fox roosts by the Newman government in 2013, instead of having to apply for permits.

But many councils have complained the bats just move down the road when the roosts are destroyed.

Cr Sutherland said the State Government was best placed to manage the issue since the problem had no borders, with the animals moving from one local government area to the next.

Environment Minister Steven Miles has announced a $2.7 million investment over three years to help learn about the bats’ habits.

“As part of the program CSIRO scientists will fit little-red flying foxes with GPS transmitters to track their movements by satellite to gain a greater understanding of their roosting preferences, where they feed and the factors that influence their behaviour,” Mr Miles said.

The program is slated to kick off later this year in Charters Towers, which received $500,000 kitty.

Australian Bat Clinic director Trish Wimberley said the best way to manage bat populations was to build a habitat.

“Build it and they will come,” she said.

“When you think of all the areas that have had flying fox issues, it’s in re-vegetated areas ... look at how and where councils revegetate.”

Bats are becoming a nuisance for the neighbourhood near Musgrave Ave along Loders Creek, Gold Coast. Picture: Regi Varghese

Bats driving Southport residents crazy
February 11, 2016

EXHAUSTED Southport residents are being kept awake every night and cleaning droppings off their lawn by an ever-growing colony of “30,000” flying foxes.

The Gold Coast City Council says it is the State Government’s problem while the State Government has directed stressed homeowners to a web page highlighting the best ways to manage the roosts by “weeding, mulching, mowing or minor tree trimming”.

The farcical situation of the city’s long-running bat saga is unfolding at Loders Creek, just metres from a nursing home, where locals say flying fox numbers have escalated from about 2500 to 30,000.

Flying foxes at the colony along Loders Creek. Photo: Regi Varghese

Jason Clarke, a long-time resident on Musgrave Ave, said the situation was “unbelievably shocking”.

“You can hear them all day and night,” the 77-year-old said.

“Some mornings you wake up and their droppings are all over the driveway and the lawn.

“It also takes the paint off the house and the smell is disgusting.

“It’s really worrying, especially when we have grandkids running around.”

Across the creek, Derek Rowe, 79, said the number of bats had tripled in the past fortnight.

Derek Rowe says the colony is a massive problem for residents. Photo: Regi Varghese

“They never used to be on this side of the river but now they’re everywhere.”

Gold Coast City Council officers and the State Government will hold meetings next week to decide on a solution.

Area councillor Dawn Crichlow said she wanted the colony culled.

“People from the Department of Natural Resources and Mines are coming on Tuesday morning — they’re the land owners,” she said.

Flying foxes at the colony along Loders Creek. Photo: Regi Varghese

“It’s up to (them) to convince the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection about culling the bats.”

Cr Crichlow said she would write to the minister to “hurry up and do something”. “Enough is enough,” she said.

A Gold Coast City Council spokeswoman said the city had 30 flying fox roosts, for which they have received 25 complaints in the past 13 months.

“The State Government is the lead agent for the management and conservation of flying foxes in Queensland,” she said.

Department of Environment and Heritage Protection issued 15 permits in the state this season to cull flying foxes for crop protection. None of those were on the Gold Coast.

However, a spokesman said suburban residents could only “manage” roosts with low-impact activities such as “weeding, mulching, mowing or minor tree trimming”.

Doctor Alison Sammel, from Bats Queensland, said deforestation in rural areas had forced more bats into suburban areas.

“We’re cutting down all the bushlands and the usual places they go to aren’t there any more,” she said.

“They’re moving around and looking for food.

“The reason they’re in such large numbers is that you get small little groups who have lost everything and they link up with larger groups who know where to go for food.”

Dr Sammel said she expected the colony in Southport to remain as large for about six weeks during the breeding season.

Originally published as Latest suburb being driven batty


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BATS. Megabats, Flying-foxes, Fruit bats and Microbats: Queensland councils can’t control rogue bat populations despite spending $1m a year
Queensland councils can’t control rogue bat populations despite spending $1m a year
Queensland councils can’t control rogue bat populations despite spending $1m a year
BATS. Megabats, Flying-foxes, Fruit bats and Microbats
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