As if these large, complex issues weren’t enough!
This critically endangered species doesn’t even have basic protection from direct habitat disturbance and destruction. State legislation allows dispersal and destruction of flying fox roosts in urban areas and makes no exceptions for Threatened and/or Endangered species of flying foxes other than to draw the line at directly killing them. Before coming to office in 2015, the aspiring Palaszczuk government acknowledged this was a problem and made commitments to change it. However, since coming to power six years ago, the Palaszczuk government have left in place Newman-era legislation, presiding over the continued rapid decline of the species.
At the federal level, ambiguous legislation has allowed roost destruction to avoid controlling measures based on the uncertainty of what is considered a ‘likely’ or ‘significant’ impact on the population. We argue that disturbance at the Cairns CBD camp can no longer possibly be considered as not ‘likely’ to have ‘significant’ impact when it is the only camp in the region that is permanently inhabited, has possibly fared better than other camps (such as those at Edmonton) in the November heat wave and could potentially now contain more than 10% of the entire national population.
Furthermore, it appears federal assessments are relying on state legislation to protect the species and state assessment is relying on federal legislation – it is a classic blame shifting exercise which results in nobody being held accountable for protecting biodiversity and preventing the extinction of a keystone Wet Tropics species. Both levels of government have obligations to do so and both need to urgently step up to the plate.
“When our laws fail to protect the air we breathe, our wildlife and the places we love, it is clear the system is failing us.”
Roost Management Legislation
We don’t underestimate the negative side effects of living next to a colony of flying foxes but our community is being sold the lie that getting rid of them is as easy as blasting sound. There is a distinct possibility that ‘deterrence’ in the CBD will result in the bats spreading out and affecting a greater number of residents with management becoming even harder and more expensive.
Dispersal doesn’t work in the long term and costs a fortune. CRC has not been honest with ratepayers about this in the way other councils have. Already it has been alleged we are spending $200,000 a year in Cairns just keeping them out of Esplanade and Woolshed trees and when the sound blasting stops, the bats return in a few days. The SFF only started moving to these less desirable locations following the systematic removal of 25 out of 38 original roost trees in the CBD, primarily on the Novotel block which has now been divided and sold to develop the Cairns Aquarium and the New Crystalbrook Hotel currently under construction. All three levels of government have allowed this destruction to happen.
Now add in the costs of the CRC’s proposed ‘deterrence’ at the City Library Camp which will send thousands of bats searching for new roosts. CRC will also be able to undertake necessary additional deterrents elsewhere should the bats land in other less desirable locations. Does that mean we could also see ‘deterrence’ at the adjacent Munro Martin Parklands? Or maybe ‘deterrence’ at Cairns Central Swamp where it is alleged they would pose an increased air-strike risk due to proximity to flight paths? What if they move to suburban areas? Will we ‘deter’ them there as well? Seriously, how much is this going to cost? And for how long, before the CRC admits the costs are unsustainable?
What’s more, a study that looked at the success of 25 dispersals in other municipalities found that the flying foxes didn’t move more than 6 km. Where exactly will CRC allow them land within 6 km of the Cairns CBD library camp? The proposed Edmonton release cage is more like 12 km from the CBD. There is no evidence to suggest they will move this far. What is the chance CRC’s ‘deterrent’ activities will move the SFFs to even less desirable locations within 6 km of the CBD?
There are claims that the community and wildlife carers support the council’s management plans. The original proposal was to put the cage at Cairns Central Swamp less than 6km from the CBD, leave it there for at least two breeding seasons to see if the CBD bats move on their own and, if not, then in time consider ‘active management’ or dispersal/deterrent and only if it was scientifically supported.