: Move on powers for bats

Move on powers for bats

Kate Galloway

Outbreaks of Hendra Virus in Queensland in recent years have resulted in a more responsive approach by government to the management of flying foxes. Queensland farmers have, for some time, been calling for measures to control flying foxes which affect their crops. Consequently, the Nature Conservation (Wildlife Management) Regulation 2006 was amended in 2012 to allow the killing of flying foxes under a damage mitigation permit (‘DMP’), where flying foxes have caused damage to crops resulting in significant economic loss.

Additionally, a private members bill was introduced late in 2012 seeking to allow the cull of flying foxes on private land, and removing the Nature Conservation Act restrictions on disturbing flying fox roosts. The Bill has not yet passed.

The Queensland government seems to have expected local authorities to take responsibility for moving on flying fox colonies in residential areas, through application for a DMP for removal or disturbance of flying fox roosts. Dismayed with the low uptake, Premier Campbell Newman reportedly called councils ‘lily-livered’ in failing to ‘put the interests of residents first’. He has threatened to implement a mobile government ‘bat squad’, charging councils for the cost of removal of flying fox colonies.

The Cairns Council was the first in Queensland to respond, voting unanimously to apply for a DMP and undertake removal itself.

In a concerning development, the Premier has indicated that if councils fail to take responsibility, the government may consider ‘overhauling the Local Government Act to make it a legal requirement for councillors to put the interests of people first.’ While the meaning of this is open to interpretation, it seems that conservation and environmental protection in Queensland is likely to be under threat.

KATE GALLOWAY teaches law at James Cook University.

(2013) 38(2) AltLJ 131
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