ITS TIME: Ipswich residents would like to see a large colony of flying foxes culled or moved on.
ITS TIME: Ipswich residents would like to see a large colony of flying foxes culled or moved on. David Nielsen

Council is hamstrung by bat legislation red tape

SOLUTIONS to the bat crisis in Ipswich are being hamstrung by a string of legislative restrictions that make Ipswich City Council's eradication plans almost impossible.

State legislation states that "all management actions must comply with the Code of Practice: Ecologically sustainable management of flying-fox roosts."

The code of practice sets out "the prescribed methods for management actions for local government".

The code states that "no roost tree may be destroyed or modified when there are flying-foxes in the tree, or when flying-foxes are near to the tree and likely to be harmed as a result of the destruction or modification".

If flying-foxes appear to have been killed or injured in this process then "all management actions must immediately cease and Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (EHP) is to be immediately notified".

All management actions undertaken by council to drive away flying-foxes "may only occur in the early evening and/or early morning".

When undertaken in the early evening, such actions "must commence immediately prior to the dusk fly out at a roost and continue for no longer than two hours".

When being carried out in the early morning, they "must commence immediately when flying-foxes start returning to a roost from foraging activities, and continue for no longer than three hours, and "must be limited to the non-lethal deterrence methods such as noise and light".

The bat problem in Ipswich has a long and varied history.

Woodend once had one of the largest urban colonies of flying foxes anywhere in the nation - predominantly grey haired and black flying foxes.

Seasonally the little red flying foxes would fly in and they added to the denuding of the habitat.

Over time they all denuded the Woodend habitat until they left.

There is a belief in council that if the state government had put money into the issue early on it could have been a more sustainable colony.

But the bats kept moving up a gully in Woodend until they impacted significantly on residents.

Then the colony left.

A large number of the colony that exists in Yamanto currently are thought to be originally from the Woodend colony.

The conditions that restrict what the council can do mean that what is achievable is limited.

Flying foxes are protected by either state or federal legislation.

The council can't touch a tree with a flying fox in it until they are gone, so they are limited in their hours of operation to early hours of the morning and twilight.

Operating in virtual darkness brings in workplace health and safety issues.

Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale has written to the Premier for assistance with the issue after having joint-funding for measures to be taken at the Yamanto colony rebuffed.

"I'd like all levels of government to realise it is a problem and stop trying to hide behind legislation," he said.

"They should put all the figures to local government and the community and work out a solution."

A letter to the QT editor accused Cr Pisasale of grandstanding on the issue, a claim he vehemently rejects.

"The bottom line is that we have been tackling this issue since 1991 and nothing has changed," he said.

"If anyone has a solution, then please let me know.

"But I will say again - that state and federal legislation does not allow local government to go in there and do anything they like.

"If there are bats in the trees we can't do anything.

"So I am happy to hear from state and federal ministers with what solutions they suggest council should implement.

"I am dealing with the people who live in these areas and I will continue to do that."

He said it was time for short, medium and long-term solutions.

In Woodend the bats were hanging outside residents' bedroom windows, over houses and were virtually in people's living rooms.

People were suffering sleep deprivation and it was impacting their ability to work.

"That is happening in Bundamba," Cr Pisasale said.

"In Bundamba the bats are in gullies overhanging houses.

"The bats come in and land on one side of a gully and the people there make a noise and they fly to the other side.

"Then the people there do the same and it causes a war.

"That is why I call it bat ping-pong.

"I had to resolve issues where neighbours were fighting over bats."

Cr Pisasale recalled how he even suggested that the city's resident bat expert Tony Merrell go and fire blanks to scare the bats away.

"We told Tony to go and shoot blanks to scare them off at Woodend but we had a Supreme Court injunction slapped on us," he said.

The amount of noise needed to move flying foxes on with chain saws and other implements also creates other issues.

Scientists are still baffled by bats' activities and no-one can say for sure where the bats will go once they are moved on from Yamanto.

Experts have told that a significant number of flying foxes roosting at Yamanto every night are new and have never roosted there before.

Cr Charlie Pisasale said that even if the bats were moved "no-one knows where they are going to be moved to".

"What may not be a problem today, will be a problem tomorrow because they will find a home somewhere.

"It will depend on the availability of food and water."

Cr Charlie Pisasale said it may be time to think outside the square for a solution.

"I heard they had a bat problem at Peak Crossing and someone had a carpet snake they didn't need and brought it in and the bats left," he said.

There have been suggestions that perhaps six to a dozen carpet snakes could be dropped in to infested areas, but the fear that the snakes move towards homes is a real one.

Another issue with the bats at Yamanto is that the trees where they live cannot be cut down without the whole gully collapsing.

The gully has volatile soil which washes away quickly and council has received advice along those lines.

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