Who?ll go into bat for the community?

By BELINDA F SCOTT

FLYING foxes are splitting the Coffs Harbour community into polarised camps.

The issue has deteriorated so far this summer that police were called during one incident in November.

Now a public meeting has been called for tomorrow morning (Friday, January 12) by some of the residents whose properties are affected by the city's flying fox colony.

The meeting will be held at 10am in Red Cedar Drive at Narranga Gardens and organisers have invited Coffs Harbour mayor Cr Keith Rhoades, State MP Andrew Fraser and Federal MP Luke Hartsuyker.

Meeting organiser and affected resident, Wes Hardy, says he wants residents to attend and support his call for moving the flying foxes away from the area.

Meeting notices invite residents to express their concerns at the overcrowding, noise, stench and health issues.

Mr Hardy, who is a community representative on the Coffs Harbour City Council's flying fox management committee, said he had been attending meetings for four years, but discussion 'never goes anywhere'.

In that time, he said, the camp had grown larger and split in two, so flying foxes were now roosting on either side of Donn Patterson Drive and were affecting many more residents.

"It's got to a point where we want to push for relocation," Mr Hardy said.

"We won't support any management of the present colony location."

But wildlife information and rescue service WIRES is accusing the residents themselves of causing the colony to split, saying it has occurred as a result of continued harassment of the animals by some residents.

The chairman of WIRES Coffs Harbour and District branch, Stephen Cross, said residents had used trail bikes, tooting car horns and revving ute motors to upset the animals.

Mr Cross said on November 25 the harassment had extended to humans and the verbal abuse and crowding had become so intimidating it was decided the WIRES people trying to rescue injured animals should leave before it became violent.

"The abuse that was hurled at us that day was the most frightening situation that I have ever been in," he said.

A spokeswoman for the Coffs Harbour City Council said a draft plan of management for the colony would be going to council in February 2007.

"The land on which the camp is mainly based is in private ownership," she said.

"The council is currently in the process of acquiring that land with the aim of being able to carry out habitat modification works that will help create buffer zones between the camp and local residents' homes."



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