Residents near the East Cessnock flying fox camp may soon be able to access support and practical solutions to protects their assets from the impact of the bats.
Cessnock City Council has secured a $50,000 grant from Local Government NSW, and will match this funding with $50,000 of in-kind staff support, effectively making this a $100,000 project.
Full details on the program will be released shortly, but it is said to include subsidies for asset protection options such as pool covers, car covers, clothesline covers and high pressure hoses.
It will also allow for the roll-out of an education program to improve community awareness about grey-headed flying foxes, and for council to improve the health and vegetation within the colony.
Council received the grant because it had prepared and adopted the East Cessnock Flying Fox Camp Management Plan in September last year.
The plan was made after the colony reached a peak of 47,000 bats in May 2016 – causing grief for nearby residents with noise, smell and mess.
The bat camp was also targeted by arsonists four times that month.
A few hundred bats remain in the trees at the corner of Long Street and Old Maitland Road in February 2018.
Cessnock mayor Bob Pynsent said he is delighted with the funding announcement, as it will allow council to implement measures that will reduce the impact of the camp on local residents.
“I am so pleased that Cessnock City Council took the lead on developing and adopting the East Cessnock Flying Fox Camp Management Plan which was critical in being awarded grant funds, otherwise we would not be in a position to do anything at all to help affected residents,” he said.
“While flying foxes do play an important role in the ecology of our region, the growth in their population and impact of noise, smell and potential health risks continues to be a concern for council and local residents.
“I encourage those affected by the flying fox camp, particularly residents living in East Cessnock, to engage with council staff when this program rolls out as it can only be a positive step in the right direction.”
Hunter MP Joel Fitzgibbon, who initiated a parliamentary inquiry into the impact of flying foxes on urban communities, also welcomed the $100,000 investment.
“I thank Local Government NSW for acknowledging the significant problem of flying foxes in the Hunter, for hearing our concerns and listening to our plight,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.
“The provision of this valuable funding is something the Turnbull Government has been disappointingly unprepared to do despite our many requests.”
The Senate committee tabled its report last year and while experts agreed flying foxes play an important role in our ecology, the report recognised the extent of the problem for local communities and for local councils.
The implementation of Cessnock council’s project will be completed by June 30 and council will keep the community up-to-date with the latest information as the project rolls out.