Meeting wants flying foxes to be moved
By BELINDA F SCOTT
'NOT in my backyard' took on a new urgency yesterday as more than 300 West Coffs Harbour residents gathered to demand the removal of thousands of flying foxes from the Coffs Creek area.
Numbers in the colony are currently at their annual summer peak and are believed to have been swollen in the last two years by the drought affecting most of the eastern States.
A large group of residents want to see the bats relocated away from their homes.
They spoke passionately of the smell, droppings, and their concerns about a health risk to them,
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their children and Coffs Creek.
But although the meeting was politically well-attended by three levels of government, Coffs Harbour mayor Cr Keith Rhoades, State MP Andrew Fraser and Federal MP Luke Hartsuyker, all pointed fingers firmly elsewhere.
The mayor said Coffs Harbour City Council would do everything it could to fix the problem and the community had done everything except take chainsaws and cut down the trees, but it needed someone 'with intestinal fortitude' to take on the NSW Government. Cr Rhoades is standing as an independent candidate at the March state election.
State MP Andrew Fraser said it was 'nonsense' that flying fox communities could not be moved using present legislation.
He said the NSW Government had moved bats from Sydney's botanic gardens, so they could be moved from Coffs Harbour and it was the management plan that had to be changed.
Federal MP Luke Hartsuyker said it was time for some local control, saying 'for a long time we have had bureaucrats a long way away determining how we live'.
But the meeting chairman, Bob Steer, and fellow flying fox management committee member Wes Hardy pointed out that it was Federal as well as State legislation which governed action on flying fox management.
Environmental services representatives at the meeting warned relocation was not supported by the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC); was extremely expensive, needed ongoing work and often led to problems for residents in other areas.
One resident said people were still building new houses close to the flying fox colony even though sale contracts had notes attached saying a bat colony was nearby.
She said some residents were also making the problem worse by deliberately disturbing the flying foxes so they flew over houses during the day, when they would normally roost and sleep.
Mr Steer and Mr Hardy are now enrolling members in a new group, Concerned Residents Against Flying Foxes.