When Tracey Goodwin first moved to central Queensland, she watched nature’s evening display with wonder, but what was once an awe-inspiring scene has now become a nightmare.
Flying foxes, also known as fruit bats, are a common sight around Queensland towns, particularly during their yearly migration.
For residents of Moranbah, it has meant having to stop children from playing in their own backyards due to the animals.
Residents of the region lament the local council’s inability to act on what they describe as a huge problem.
From love to hate
Ms Goodwin moved to Moranbah with her husband and three kids two years ago.
She said a scene that once inspired awe now prevents children from playing outside.
“We’ve gone from loving the view to absolutely hating it,” she said.
Ms Goodwin said they regularly hear neighbours banging pots and pans or playing loud music to force the creatures out.
Last year, there was a “beautiful little stream” over Moranbah in the evening, but her family now contends with thousands of flying foxes taking up residence and roosting in trees of her backyard.
Under the Queensland Nature Conservation Act 1992, it is against the law to harm or disturb a roost without a permit.
Ms Goodwin said family barbecues and a good night’s sleep are distant memories.
“At night, it’s just constant chattering and the tree is right by our bedroom window.
“The noise never stops.”
Beyond one town
In Clermont, flying foxes have taken over the only public park used as a recreation area for families.
Local solicitor Flora Wellington said over the last four seasons, the flying fox population had increased substantially.
Ms Wellington said it was suggested to council years ago to trial dispersal methods of smoke and light to dissuade the flying foxes from using trees in the park.
Neither method requires a permit.
Ms Wellington also argued the council could have removed the trees.
She said there is no evidence that other trees would have become roosting spots.
In Queensland, councils have an “as of right” authority to intervene and manage mapped urban flying fox roosts in their area.
If councils want to undertake actions that are not listed in the code, or at places which are not mapped urban roosts, they have to apply for a permit. Private landholders can also do this.
However, Daniel Wagner from the Isaac Regional Council says policies have changed at a state level, altering the definition of a roost. He said this has made it more difficult to manage permits.
Ms Wellington complained various levels of government have avoided responsibility for the issue, labelling it “horrendous” for communities.
“Council has an as-of-right ability to disturb and change the vegetation before the flying foxes roost,” Ms Wellington said.
Mr Wagner said council is working proactively with landowners, but in some cases the animals stayed longer than expected.
“This year we’ve seen some unusual characteristics of the flying fox movements in places where we haven’t seen them frequently in the past.”
“Flying foxes are unpredictable so it’s a bit of a wait-and-see [situation] in some instances.”
No funding for Isaac
A spokesperson from the Department of Environment and Science (DES) said current policy “achieves the right balance of community expectation and conservation.”
The department is also delivering $2 million in grant funding over four years to assist local governments to mitigate the impacts flying fox roosts can have on communities.
The Isaac region is yet to receive funding.
Twelve local council regions in Queensland have already received funding, but Mr Wagner said they are hoping to receive support in the second round.
He also said that the council had not applied for any permits to move roosts on from either Moranbah or Clermont.
Ms Goodwin said residents are starting to take matters into their own hands.
“We’ve been told to leave them alone and they’ll move on eventually but not a lot of people are listening.”
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