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Flying-fox plans, legislation & approvals

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Eurobodalla Flying-fox Management Plan

On 27 November 2018, Council adopted the Eurobodalla Flying-fox Management Plan and approved funding to implement some of its recommendations.

As part of this plan, Council:

  • maintains the buffer zones on Council land created in 2015 between the dwellings at the Water Gardens and Catalina
  • when required, under the plan, provides practical help to residents living within 300 metres of a camp, with education, subsidised services and camp monitoring
  • conducts camp assessments of new and existing camps to assess the level of assistance that can be provided.

The Eurobodalla Flying-fox Management Plan provides a framework to help reduce the effects of flying-foxes on people in Eurobodalla, while conserving the animals and the ecosystem services they provide.

The plan provides some level of certainty to the community as to how current and future camps are likely to be managed, and will be updated as situations change, or as further research improves the understanding of flying-foxes and how to minimise their impacts on people.

The plan's development involved an extensive effort by Council to engage with the community and key stakeholders to ensure the community's values were considered, and the concerns of people directly impacted, were addressed.

Engagement was in accordance with Council’s Community Engagement Framework and ensured the values of the community were considered, and the concerns of people directly impacted addressed. Community feedback was used to inform the draft Plan, including consideration of management options and the decision support tool.

The plan shows how community input helped identify triggers for management options, depending on the level of impact. The primary focus is minimising impacts of flying-foxes on people within 300 metres of camps, particularly on Council-managed land.

Council also provides a supporting role to the broader community impacted by roosting and foraging flying-foxes.

Batemans Bay Flying-fox Camp Dispersal Plan

In response to the unprecedented growth in the flying-fox population at the Water Gardens in 2016, a Dispersal Plan was developed and dispersal was subsequently undertaken.

The plan outlined costs, timeframes, methods, risks and alternative action. During development, Council considered immediate and long-term impacts on the community, feedback from the community, likely risks and advice from flying-fox experts and other governments departments, legislation, finances and other resources.

The plan was assessed and approved by the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH).

You can read the Dispersal Plan below:

Approval for dispersal

National Interest Exemption from the Commonwealth Department of Environment

On 17 May 2016, Council’s application for a National Interest Exemption was granted by the Federal Minister for Environment:

The National Interest Exemption under s158 of the EPBC Act means that Council is not required to conduct an environmental assessment or obtain Australian Government approval to disperse flying-foxes or remove vegetation associated with dispersal. Council must meet the conditions of the exemption, which are that:

  • Council take substantive dispersal action by 1 August 2016.
  • Dispersal cannot occur when the flying-fox females are heavily pregnant or with dependent young, ie, from 1 August 2016 until such time as the Commonwealth Department of Environment appointed experts notify that the general grey-headed flying-fox population’s period of dependency has been completed.
  • Council enters into a long-term Conservation Agreement under the EPBC Act by 31 December 2016, to provide longer-term certainty.

The Conservation Agreement and supplementary report to the Water Gardens Management Plan are available for viewing below:

Approval required from NSW Office of Environment and Heritage to attempt dispersal

Council also had to obtain approval from the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) to attempt an active dispersal. Council applied to the NSW OEH under Section 91 of the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 to obtain approval to disperse flying-foxes. As part of the application, we submitted the final dispersal plan to NSW OEH.

On 15 June 2016, the NSW OEH provided approval to carry out dispersal action in Batemans Bay to reduce the impacts of flying-foxes in residential areas, subject to adherence to strict conditions to protect the welfare of the flying-foxes. Dispersal must be carried out in accordance with the approved Dispersal Plan and approval conditions:

2016 flying-fox dispersal activities

Dispersal assisted by natural migration

Unprecedented numbers of flying-foxes established camps in Batemans Bay in early 2016, likely as a result of heavy flowering of Spotted Gum and Bloodwood trees as the animals sought to take advantage of a camp close to their natural food supply. Members of the community raised concerns regarding loss of amenity and the levels of noise, odour, and faecal drop associated with the camp.

Flying-fox dispersal started in Batemans Bay on Wednesday 22 June 2016 in accordance with the NSW and Australian Government conditions detailed above. The dispersal process involved trained teams making noise and flashing lights in target area early each morning (pre-dawn/dawn), except Sundays. Activities were ongoing until our dispersal license ended on 31 July 2016.

Council prioritised dispersal activities to areas where campsites were closest to houses, and performed authorised vegetation clearing to increase the buffer zone between the flying-fox habitat and residences. These areas included around Heron Road and Lake Catalina in Catalina, around the Water Gardens and Bavarde Avenue in Batemans Bay.

As anticipated, natural migration of the flying-foxes assisted dispersal activities as the animals left the area in search of food sources to the north. By early July 2016, camps at the Water Gardens, Lake Catalina and around Heron and Albatross Road were empty, and dispersal had nudged the remaining flying-foxes to one location to the west of the golf course in Catalina. Council focused our dispersal activities on this area while performing maintenance actions at the empty camps until the end of the license period. This continued to involve loud noises and lights, and under the right conditions, smoke.

In accordance with approval conditions, flying-fox dispersal activity stopped whenever the Bureau of Meteorology issued a weather warning for the region. Dispersal recommenced in all active areas when conditions were again favourable, and with approval from the NSW Government.

It is almost certain that additional flying-foxes will return each year when the weather warms up and food sources increase, but we cannot predict in what numbers or where they will camp. Flying-fox numbers are largely in response to the availability of food and there will always be a food supply in Eurobodalla. This is why we invested heavily in increasing the vegetation buffer zones to minimise conflict between flying-foxes and residents in the future.

While Council currently has an exemption to carry out dispersal activities, no primary dispersal activities to disturb active camps can be performed when the flying-foxes are heavily pregnant or with young, which is likely to extend from August to February each year. Council may perform maintenance dispersal in areas where all flying-foxes have been dispersed to discourage them from re-establishing camps.

Legislation and approvals

Grey-headed flying-foxes are protected under the NSW National Parks and Wildlife ACT 1974, are listed as vulnerable to extinction under the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 and the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).

You can read the Flying-fox Camp Management Code of Practice 2018 and guidance notes below:

The Department of Environment has released its referral guideline for management actions in grey-headed flying-fox camps. This guideline provides greater certainty to proponents on whether or not they need to seek approval for management actions at camps.

In accordance with these NSW and Commonwealth legislation and guidelines, Council had to first apply for approval from both levels of government before taking any action that may harm or impact the species or their habitat.

Draft National Recovery Plan for grey-headed flying-foxes

In January 2017, the Federal Department of Environment and Energy released the Draft National Recovery Plan and invited the public to comment. The plan identifies recovery objectives and actions to improve the national population of the grey-headed flying-fox by identifying and conserving critical foraging and roosting habitat and increasing awareness and understanding of flying-foxes, their importance to our ecosystems and mitigating the threats they face. The plan also sets out ways to improve the community’s capacity to coexist with flying-foxes, while acknowledging the social and economic impacts and issues associated with urban camps.

Eurobodalla Shire Council has reviewed the plan and is preparing a submission. The key points of our submission will include the need for:

  • short-term actions to reduce human/flying-fox conflicts
  • access to current data about flying-fox movements and population
  • a consistent management framework across all levels of government to streamline flying-fox management
  • research into emerging health complaints such as respiratory illnesses and mental health issues
  • capacity building of communities to increase resilience when co-existing with flying-foxes.

More information

We can help you

If you would like more information about flying-foxes, please contact Council's Natural Resource Officer - Flying-Foxes, Natalie Foster, on: