By Luis Feliu
Tweed Shire Council is set to adopt a plan which aims to protect flying foxes while addressing community concerns over the 16 known active flying-fox camps in the shire.
In the past, flying fox camps near residential areas have caused some angst with residents, with some considering them a nuisance and taking their own action to get rid of them or stop them from settling there.
But others including conservationists say the two species of flying fox (Black and Grey-headed) are listed as vulnerable or protected under state and federal law and should be looked after.
The state government in 2015, through the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH), released its flying-fox camp management policy to provide councils and land managers guidance to work with their local communities in managing the impacts of the camps on surrounding communities.
The council plan is in accordance to that policy in recommending shire-wide or regional camp management
approaches to address the movement of flying-foxes, seasonal relocation of camps and implications of management actions for humans and flying-foxes.
At its meeting next Thursday, Tweed councillors will consider adopting its own camp management plan.
Its stated aims are: to support council’s ability to respond to community concerns’ regarding flying foxes; ensure positive conservation outcomes for flying foxes in the shire; enhance community awareness and understanding of flying-fox ecology and behaviour; and facilitate streamlined camp management approvals and actions where appropriate.
The plan, endorsed by council in late 2016, was put on public exhibition late last year and received seven submissions from organisations and individuals.
Council staff says some of the key issues raised by the submissions included:
* Support for the objectives, comprehensive camp information and conservation strategy of the plan.
* Recognition of the importance of education and support for the education strategy within the plan.
* Recognition of the critical and unique opportunity presented through strategic land use planning to avoid creating situations of conflict by not locating residential development near existing flying-fox camps.
* Concern that the plan does not adequately prioritise people affected by flying-fox camps and that the plan states a preference for the management of flying-fox camps in situ.
* Recommendations for increased buffer distances and increased use of buffer zones to reduce conflict between people and flying-fox camps.
In their report, staff say all the Tweed camps are seasonally variable in relation to the species present, number of animals present, area occupied and time of the year occupied.
‘Two species of flying-fox generally occur in camps throughout Tweed Shire. The Grey-headed Flying-fox is listed as a vulnerable species under both Commonwealth and State legislation,’ the report says.
‘The Black Flying-fox is protected by NSW wildlife legislation.
‘Flying-foxes play a critical role in the pollination and dispersal of forests including eucalypts
‘They travel up to 30 km per night to feed and much greater distances during seasonal movements and are essential to the maintenance of healthy, productive forests.
‘Throughout their range, flying-foxes are known to establish camps in close proximity to
‘Where camps occur in locations that create nuisance, amenity or other impacts on humans, the availability of management actions that suitably reconcile environmental, economic and social interests are limited.
‘There is also a range of public health issues associated with the presence of flying-fox camps in close proximity to human settlements.
‘The draft plan aims to facilitate efficient and timely response to manage community impacts from flying-fox camps where appropriate.
‘The plan also provides a policy position in relation to flying-fox camp management in the Tweed Shire.
‘This will improve transparency, certainty and availability of information for the community, including those affected by flying-fox camps,’ the report said.
Some of the recommended actions under the plan include designing and installing interpretive signage for flying foxes, publishing camp monitoring data on council’s website, implementing a community-education strategy and publishing a species list of plants suitable in creating buffer zones.