Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester has welcomed new draft guidelines released today to help communities manage nuisance flying foxes camped in residential areas.
The Australian Government is seeking public feedback on the guidelines, which offer more streamlined ways of dealing with clusters of flying foxes protected by national environmental laws.
Under the draft guidelines, communities would be able to implement non-lethal measures to disperse camps, in accordance with best practice standards. These actions would not require approval from the Australian Government.
Mr Chester said there had been significant community concern regarding flying foxes, particularly for health reasons, in the Bairnsdale region.
“These draft guidelines aim to strike a balance between protecting the endangered flying foxes, while also addressing community concerns about camps near homes and businesses,” Mr Chester said.
“As we have seen in Riverine Street in Bairnsdale, the flying foxes cause noise, smell and health concerns, while also destroying poplar trees along the Mitchell River.
“The community has been very clear in its desire to be able to do more to deter the flying foxes from roosting near homes and I have passed this message on to the Environment Minister and Prime Minister on several occasions.”
Mr Chester said as the flying foxes were protected under national environmental law, many communities were restricted in what deterrence action they could take.
“The grey-headed flying foxes, commonly found in East Gippsland, play an important ecological role in pollinating plants and dispersing native plant seeds,” Mr Chester said.
“However due to their protected species status, the flying foxes can’t be interfered with unless there is approval from several layers of government.
“These new national guidelines will complement standard practice in Queensland and New South Wales, where numerous coastal towns also experience similar problems with flying fox colonies.”
Suggested non-lethal activities could include acoustic, visual and/or physical disturbance or use of smoke. Trees will also be able to be felled if flying foxes are not in or near a tree and are likely to be harmed.
The disturbance activities would have to be supervised by a person with experience in managing flying foxes and their habitat.
Under the proposed guidelines, camps that contain heavily pregnant female flying foxes can’t be disrupted and the actions can’t occur during or immediately after extreme heat or floods.
Mr Chester said the East Gippsland Shire Council, National Bat Solution Group, the Department of Environment and Primary Industries, and Federal Government had been working together to address community concerns.
“As has been previously stated by experts in this field, there is no ‘quick fix’ to the bat problem in Bairnsdale,” Mr Chester said.
“However, we’ve made significant progress on this issue in the past 12 months and I am looking forward to further measures being implemented in 2015 to deter the flying foxes from roosting along Riverine Street.”
The guidelines are available at the Department of the Environment’s website here: www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/species/flying-fox-policy-statement