Moving or culling the flying fox colony that inhabit Lissner Park at Charters Towers has been an ongoing concern for close to 20 years due to the mental and physical health risks they pose to residents and businesses in the area.
Member for Dalrymple Shane Knuth said since 1995 when the colony first took up residence in the park all attempts to drive the colony out have proven to be unsuccessful with constraints from State Government legislation proving to be the significant limiting factor.
“Since the bats first arrived the various state governments have dodged and weaved the issue regarding a solid solution for the removal of them,” Mr Knuth said.
While flying fox numbers at the park are low at the moment due to the ongoing dry, when water is around the colony’s population has in the past increased to more than 80,000.
Mr Knuth said the mental anguish the problem is causing for homeowners and businesses surrounding the park is incalculable.
“Each day but especially at dawn and dusk when flying foxes are at their most active residents put up with excessive noise, putrid smells, faeces in town pool, and the flies and lice prevalent in and around the colony,” he said.
He said these factors have have led to decreases in land value for properties surrounding the park which is causing anxiety and depression among residents.
“Hotels and motels are also losing out on business because potential guests don’t want to put up with the noise.”
But Mr Knuth said the biggest cause for concern is the possibility of a Hendra Virus outbreak occurring.
“Over 70 horse deaths and four human fatalities have been attributed to the virus in Australia, which is why it’s a big risk letting them continue to reside in the park.
“They’re like a ticking time bomb, and if we don’t do something to remove the colony from the park permanently it could lead to serious health issues or worse especially for nursing mothers, the sick the frail and the elderly.”
Mr Knuth said in communities where the colony is on the edge of town flying foxes can be dispersed very easily, whereas in Charters Towers they’re “right in the guts of the city”, which requires a more prolonged dispersal, and continued follow up work afterwards.
“We need to educate the flying foxes to change their flight paths and roosting habits, if we make them feel uncomfortable enough in the park they’ll eventually find a place where its less dangerous and set up a colony that they feel safer in.
“But because of the pro-bat mentality expressed by out-of-towners and animal activist groups it has made it very difficult to undertake the work required to force them to find an alternative roosting area.
“We need support and assistance to move them on.”
Mr Knuth previously introduced the Flying Fox Control Amendment Bill in parliament in 2012 which was voted down by LNP.
“The amendment bill would give greater autonomy to councils to remove flying foxes and if all else fail’s, culling would be a possible method of dispersal.
“I’ve been lobbying the State Minister for Environment and Heritage Protection Steven Miles very strongly to provide funding for councils that have flying fox problems to assist in the cost of removal.
“He’s interested in the extra funding proposition, we’ve a number of meetings and discussions, and I’ve invited him to Charters Towers personally to take a first-hand look at the problem.”