Gympie bats get home reno

The sky above Commissioner Gully in Gympie has seen heavy traffic lately.

Arthur Gorrie

Like Jo Jo in the old Beatles song, Gympie’s inner city fruit bats are being told to “get back to where you once belonged.”

And that place is Widgee Crossing, once classified a nationally significant roost, but now a flying fox ghost town.

A report to councillors says it is likely the deserted Widgee Crossing roost is where the bats at Commissioners Gully and Gympie West came from.

Degradation of the Widgee Crossing site has been possibly caused either by too many bats or weed damage, wrecking the area’s fruit bat amenity.

Another possible cause raised at Gympie Regional Council’s most recent meeting is bushfires elsewhere, driving new populations of bats into the Gympie, area.

Councillors adopted a formal Statement of Management Intent for the flying foxes, helping keep residents and other levels of government informed and potentially forming the basis of grant applications to other levels of government

“Historically, the primary flying fox roost in Gympie has been located at Widgee Crossing and was designated a nationally significant roost,” staff reported.

“This site is away from urban living areas and has traditionally meant low levels of interaction between flying foxes and the local residents.”

That changed in December, 2019, when a new flying-fox roost was established more centrally in

Gympie at Commissioners Gully.

This was “a more densely populated area of Gympie and the level of interaction between residents and the flying fox population has increased significantly,” the staff report said.

Although flying foxes do sometimes migrate for various reasons, “the movement of the flying fox population to Commissioners Gully is not fully understood.”

“The arrival of flying foxes into Commissioner Gully has created a range of issues for residents living adjacent to the site due to the noise, smell and proximity of the flying foxes.

“In response to this presence, in late 2020 Council undertook extensive consultation with the

immediate residents and engaged environmental specialists to develop a management plan

for the site.

“Additionally, the Widgee Crossing site has been assessed and a plan drafted to manage the

ongoing degradation of the site with a view to restore its capacity to provide a viable roost

site.”

The staff report said the formal Statement of Management Intent would provide residents with clarity on council plans to manage the problem “in compliance with current federal and state legislation and with consideration of the specific circumstances facing individual communities.”

The report says approvals for permission to disperse flying fox roosts are “rarely provided” under state and federal environmental laws.

And such tactics “have not been found to be reliable in permanently relocating flying fox camps.”

One risk of council attempts to move the bats on is that they may only move somewhere equally problematic, or they may just move back later.

There was also a significant issue of cost.

“Dispersal activities can require ongoing funding over a long period and for example

dispersal activities in the Maclean area of northern NSW cost over $400,000 between 1999

and 2006,” the report says.