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Batemans Bay Water Gardens and Catalina camps

There are two flying-fox camps in Batemans Bay at:

  • the Water Gardens near Batemans Bay township
  • northern Catalina on the Club Catalina golf course.

Water Gardens camp

The Water Gardens is a six-hectare wetland park close to the Batemans Bay town centre. The Gardens is Council managed land, with the area occupied by flying-foxes also extending onto private land.

Site characteristics and history

The Water Gardens site is a natural drainage area that was once used for stock grazing. The site vegetation is Swamp Oak Floodplain Forest, which is listed in NSW as an Endangered Ecological Community (EEC). The land is zoned for Environmental Conservation.

In 1989, the Batemans Bay Historical Society requested Council redevelop the site into a town park.

The Water Gardens opened in 1999, managed by a community-driven committee.

By 2012, Council had resumed management of the site. The regrowing vegetation was bordering many residential properties surrounding the park.

Flying foxes at the Water Gardens

Grey-headed flying-foxes have been officially recorded at the Water Gardens since 2012. Though there are some reports of them occupying the site in small numbers before 2012.

In 2013 the camp comprised more than 10,000 individuals and a bit over 20,000 in 2014.

In 2015, in response to this increase, Council developed the Water Gardens Grey-headed Flying-fox Management Plan 2015. This plan prioritised management options to reduce impacts on residents and businesses. Options included removing the overgrown vegetation to re-instate buffers between residences.

The Water Gardens Grey-headed Flying-fox Management Plan 2015 has now been superseded by the Eurobodalla Flying-fox Management Plan.

In mid-2016, a mass-flowering of spotted gum and red bloodwood occurred in the region’s forests. This flowering attracted hundreds of thousands of flying-foxes to Batemans Bay.

In response, Council extended the buffer zones to residences. The buffer zones are now regularly maintained by Council and Batemans Bay Local Aboriginal Land Council.

Other maintenance work included:

  • weed control
  • mowing
  • rubbish removal
  • infrastructure maintenance
  • planting and mulching native shrubs and grasses.

The Green Army installed wildlife cameras to monitor native and feral animals and nest boxes in the tree canopy for birds and gliders.

Council installed a water pump and canopy sprinklers to discourage flying-foxes from roosting in the vegetation nearest to houses.

Unfortunately, some people use the Water Gardens to dispose of rubbish or dump shopping trolleys. Council rangers issue fines for littering, so if you see somebody doing the wrong thing, please report it to Council on 4474 1000.

Graph monitoring flying fox population at the Batemans Bay Water Gardens across multiple years.

Population at Batemans Bay Water Gardens camp 2016 to 2020

Regular monitoring began after June 2016 dispersal.

Northern Catalina camp

Site characteristics

The camp on the Club Catalina golf course is on land zoned as Environmental Conservation, along Hanging Rock Creek in Batemans Bay. The vegetation is Swamp Sclerophyll Forest on Coastal Floodplain or Coastal Swamp Oak Forest which is listed as an endangered ecological community by the Australian Government under the Environment Protection and Conservation Act 1999.

Flying foxes at Catalina

Council has monitored the camp since November 2012. Flying-foxes irregularly occupy this camp and were known to be present in 2013, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020.

The population at this camp has always been less than 5000 except in May 2016 when more than 120,000 flying-foxes used the existing camp and spilled over into the surrounding residential and forest areas.

At its largest, the Catalina camp covered 18.74 hectare. The persistent flying-fox camp is concentrated on the central area of vegetation near the waterways.

Graph monitoring flying fox population at the northern Catalina camp across multiple years.

Population at northern Catalina camp 2016 to 2020

Regular monitoring began after October 2016 dispersal

What happened in 2016?

Flying-fox influx

In 2016 more than 270,000 Grey-headed flying-foxes congregated within Batemans Bay. This was approximately 40% of the entire species population counted in May 2016.

The flying-foxes were attracted by a mass flowering event of spotted gum (Corymbia maculata) and red bloodwood (Corymbia gummifera).

Spotted gums and red bloodwoods tend to have flowering events every four to seven years. Spotted gums tend to flower from late autumn through winter and red bloodwoods flower summer through autumn. We don’t know why the conditions in 2016 resulted in simultaneous flowering of the two species.

During this time, flying-foxes occupied the Water Gardens and Catalina camps, and extended into vegetation in residential areas surrounding the camps. This caused significant conflict with residents, many of whom had not been impacted by flying-foxes before.

Dispersal and camp-management actions

Council requested approval to carry out dispersal activities and the Minister for the Environment granted a National Interest Exemption under s158 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 to allow dispersal of the flying-foxes and more severe vegetation management at the camps. This exemption was conditional on the development of a Conservation Agreement, which led to development of the Eurobodalla Flying-fox Management Plan.

The Batemans Bay Flying-fox Camp Dispersal Plan 2016-2019 was developed in 2016. In June and July 2016 Council carried out approved flying-fox dispersal activities in accordance with conditions set by the Commonwealth Environment Minister’s National Interest Exemption and the NSW Flying-fox Camp Management Policy.

Flying fox numbers had already begun to decrease naturally by the time dispersal activities began, so the dispersal was successful in reducing the remaining populations from undesirable locations.

Council also:

  • removed 5.3 hectares of vegetation from the Water Gardens and Catalina areas to provide buffers for residents
  • removed Cocos palms to reduce disturbance from night time foraging and mess from faecal drop
  • carried out weed removal, mulching and planted native shrubs and grasses to restore the appearance and condition of the Water Gardens.

In accordance with the EPBC Act Referral Guideline, no additional vegetation removal is possible at the Water Gardens without referral to the Australian Environment Minister.

Council now has a five-year Threatened Species Licence to manage for flying-fox camp dispersal in Batemans Bay. The decision to disperse will be made in line with the management framework in the current Eurobodalla Flying-fox Management Plan.

2016 to 2019 population comparison

These maps show the extent of the flying-fox camps at their peak in April 2016 and the extent of the camps in April 2019.

Click for larger images

Click to open a larger image of the map showing the extent of the flying-fox camps at their peak in April 2016

The extent of flying-fox camps at their peak in April 2016

Clock to open a larger image of the map showing the extent of the flying-fox camps in May 2019 at Batemans Bay

The extent of flying-fox camps in Batemans Bay in May 2019