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Environment and Energy—House of Representatives Standing Committee—Living with fruit bats: Inquiry into flying-fox management in the eastern states—Report, February 2017


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February 2017 CANBERRA

PARLIAMENT OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA

Living with fruit bats

Inquiry into flying-fox management in the eastern states

House of Representatives Standing Committee on the Environment and Energy

© Commonwealth of Australia

ISBN 978-1-74366-594-7 (Printed Version)

ISBN 978-1-74366-595-4 (HTML Version)

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License.

The details of this licence are available on the Creative Commons website: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/au/.

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Contents

Contents ..............................................................................................................................................iii

Chair's Foreword.................................................................................................................................v

Executive Summary .........................................................................................................................vii

Membership of the Committee ........................................................................................................ix

Terms of Reference ............................................................................................................................xi

Abbreviations ...................................................................................................................................xiii

List of Recommendations ................................................................................................................xv

The Report

1 Introduction...............................................................................................................1

About the inquiry ...................................................................................................................1

Report structure ......................................................................................................................3

2 Flying-foxes: background and impacts................................................................5

Flying-foxes in Australia .......................................................................................................5

Nationally protected flying-foxes.........................................................................................6

Ecology, population size and distribution ........................................................................10

Impacts: social, economic, environmental and health.....................................................20

Committee comments ..........................................................................................................28

3 Regulation of protection and management actions.........................................31

Current Commonwealth regulation ..................................................................................31

iv

Current state regulation.......................................................................................................38

Effectiveness of the current regulatory framework .........................................................43

Current management actions: does ‘best practice’ exist? ...............................................45

Examples of regulatory pathways and management actions ............................47

Committee comments ..........................................................................................................51

4 Options for reform .................................................................................................53

National coordination of management actions ................................................................53

Funding for priority actions, research and data ..............................................................56

Decision framework for councils and other managing bodies ......................................59

Public and community education ......................................................................................62

Committee comments ..........................................................................................................63

End Matter

A. List of submissions ..........................................................................................................65

B. List of exhibits...................................................................................................................69

C. Roundtable public hearing .............................................................................................71

List of Figures

Figure 2.1 Distribution of Spectacled Flying-foxes....................................................16

Figure 2.2 Location of camps used by Grey-headed Flying-foxes ..........................17

Figure 3.1 Referral decision-making process for management actions in Grey-headed or Spectacled Flying-fox camps ...................................................33

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Chair's Foreword

The Minister for the Environment and Energy, the Hon. Josh Frydenberg MP, first wrote to the Committee about the issue of flying-foxes in mid-October 2016, asking that the Committee consider conducting an inquiry into the increasing tensions being experienced by residents affected by flying-fox camps.

The Committee considered this request and received briefings on the issue, including from the Member for Hunter, the Hon. Joel Fitzgibbon MP. These briefings provided a good insight into the tensions being felt in some parts of the eastern states of Australia, where nationally-protected flying-fox camps impact on communities due to increased urban roosting.

Recognising that the impact of flying-foxes in the eastern states is an important issue for affected communities in particular, the Committee decided to carry out a short inquiry to identify areas for improvement in the timeliest way possible.

In order to gather evidence from the relevant stakeholders and experts within the agreed timeframe, the Committee conducted a roundtable public hearing in Canberra. This enabled productive engagement with a wide range of experts and representatives of affected communities. The Committee also received a range of written submissions and correspondence outlining stakeholder experiences and community concerns about local flying-fox issues.

The Committee is grateful to all stakeholders for taking the time to participate in the roundtable or provide written evidence to the inquiry. The breadth of expert knowledge on the complex relationship between flying-foxes and humans made a particularly strong contribution to the inquiry, and the Committee appreciates the

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willingness of these experts to provide their insights to the Committee, particularly within the necessarily tight timeframe.

The Committee considers that the recommendations made in this report will help to better support local communities to understand and plan the appropriate actions required to effectively manage flying-foxes, and will deliver much-needed coordination across all levels of government.

I would like to thank Committee members for their enthusiastic engagement with this inquiry and their commitment to facilitating timely and meaningful change in the management of nationally protected flying-foxes.

Andrew Broad MP Chair

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Executive Summary

Flying-foxes act as important pollen and seed dispersers for a wide range of native vegetation across the east coast of Australia. Due to their ecological importance in maintaining some of Australia’s most significant ecosystems, work needs to be undertaken to ensure the preservation of flying-fox species across the country.

The reduction in suitable foraging and roosting habitat, among other factors, has impacted on the population size of several species, leading the Spectacled Flying-fox and Grey-headed Flying-fox to be listed as ‘Vulnerable’ under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. The expansion of human populations across coastal New South Wales and Queensland has led to flying-fox camps becoming increasingly located in urban and rural residential areas, possibly from movements of camps due to loss of natural habitat, or the expansion of human settlement into traditional flying-fox habitats.

The growing propensity of flying-foxes to roost in urban areas has caused more frequent interactions between the species and Australia’s human population. The location and size of these camps can have notable economic, social and health impacts on residents, business owners, and the agricultural community. These impacts have increasingly affected residents’ quality of life, and put pressure on local government to take action.

There is uncertainty around the reasons for the increase in urban roosting behaviour, and the accuracy of population estimates of these flying-foxes. The highly-mobile nature of flying-foxes—the Grey-headed Flying-fox in particular— contributes to difficulties in ensuring that data is accurate and determining whether management actions will have lasting results.

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Increased urban roosting in recent years has led councils to implement a number of management techniques. These include actions to deter flying-foxes from returning to an established roosting spot, known as dispersals, in order to reduce the impacts on affected communities. Local councils are often tasked with the difficult job of balancing their legislative responsibilities for the conservation of flying-foxes, with the needs of local communities.

This inquiry considered the Commonwealth and state protections afforded to the two threatened flying-fox species, the interaction between state and Commonwealth regulatory frameworks, and the varied approaches to managing the camps that cause tensions. Consistent with the terms of reference, the focus of the inquiry was to ensure that the regulatory framework enables the effective management of flying-fox camps, while securing the appropriate environmental protections.

The recommendations outlined in the report are intended to complement the existing efforts to protect, conserve and recover affected flying-fox populations, allowing them to be managed in the most appropriate and sustainable way possible, while limiting the impacts on the livelihoods of those in the communities affected. The recommendations are designed to provide more immediate support and guidance for relevant stakeholders, taking into account the longer-term recovery objectives set out in the draft recovery plans for the Spectacled Flying-fox and Grey-headed Flying-fox. Central to these aims is national coordination, funding and research, clear guidance for decision making, and community education.

To support these aims the Committee has recommended the establishment of a cooperative body to coordinate and compile information on the management actions and priorities for reform relating to nationally protected flying-foxes across Commonwealth, state and local government jurisdictions. The Committee has also highlighted the need to fund priority actions and research, and the development of a decision tool for local governments when faced with flying-fox camps that affect their residents. Finally, the Committee recommends the development of education resources to assist local councils in affected jurisdictions and potentially affected jurisdictions.

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Membership of the Committee

Chair

Mr Andrew Broad MP

Deputy Chair

Mr Pat Conroy MP

Members

Hon Warren Entsch MP

Mr Trevor Evans MP

Mr Luke Howarth MP

Mr Craig Kelly MP

Mr Peter Khalil MP

Ms Anne Stanley MP

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Committee Secretariat

Secretary Ms Peggy Danaee

Inquiry Secretary Mr Jeff Norris

Research Officers Ms Dione Hodgson

Dr Ashley Stephens

Office Manager Ms Sarah Brasser

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Terms of Reference

The House of Representatives Standing Committee on the Environment and Energy will inquire into and report on the impact of nationally protected flying-foxes on communities in the eastern states of Australia, with regard to the following terms:

 the circumstances and process by which flying-foxes are listed and delisted as threatened species at both the state and Commonwealth levels;

 the interaction between the state and Commonwealth regulatory frameworks;

 strategic approaches to managing species at a regional scale;

 opportunities to streamline the regulation of flying-fox management; and

 the success or otherwise of management actions, such as dispersal of problematic flying-fox camps.

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Abbreviations

ABLV Australian Bat Lyssavirus

CBD Central Business District

CSIRO Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation

EDOs Environmental Defenders Offices

EHP Queensland Government Department of Environment and Heritage Protection

EPBC Act Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth)

HeV Hendra virus

IUCN International Union for Conservation of Nature

NESP National Environmental Science Program

NFFMP National Flying-fox Monitoring Programme

OEH New South Wales Office of Environment and Heritage

RBG Royal Botanic Garden

TSSC Threatened Species Scientific Committee

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List of Recommendations

Recommendation 1

4.14 The Committee recommends that the Australian Government propose a national or eastern states flying-fox consultative committee or working group to the Council of Australian Governments. The consultative committee or working group would be responsible for centrally compiling information on referrals and management actions, and identifying priorities for legislative harmonisation, research and funding for future action in the management of nationally protected flying-foxes.

Recommendation 2

4.28 The Committee recommends that the Australian Government establish a dedicated funding pool for flying-fox research and conservation actions, to enable:

 continued funding of the National Flying-fox Monitoring Programme for at least the next 10 years;

 committed funding for the priority actions outlined in the recovery plans for both the Spectacled Flying-fox and Grey-headed Flying-fox;

 targeted national research into flying-fox roosting behaviours and habitat loss impacts; and

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 any other research that allows for the timely evaluation of flying-foxes under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, informed by rigorous data, at the earliest opportunity.

Recommendation 3

4.38 The Committee recommends that the Department of the Environment and Energy develop, in consultation with relevant state and local governments, a tool that assists councils to make decisions on action, referral and education in the most appropriate way, relevant to the flying-fox impacts in their jurisdiction.

Recommendation 4

4.49 The Committee recommends that the Department of the Environment and Energy, in consultation with other relevant organisations, develop a suite of education resources for Australian communities regarding flying-fox ecology, behaviour, environmental significance, health impacts, and management options. These resources should be promoted by the Australian Government to local councils, communities, businesses and all relevant stakeholders in affected jurisdictions and potentially affected jurisdictions.

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1. Introduction

1.1 Flying-foxes are a keystone species within Australia’s mammal populations and the ecosystems that they affect. They are an integral part of the ecosystem and are important dispersers of pollen and seeds of a wide range of Australian native plants across the eastern seaboard.

1.2 Two species of mainland flying-foxes currently have a protected listing under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act)—the Grey-headed Flying-fox (Pteropus poliocephalus) and the Spectacled Flying-fox (Pteropus conspicillatus).

1.3 While very important to the ecosystem within the eastern states of Australia, the population of flying-foxes coincides with a large proportion of the Australian human population, inevitably leading to tensions. Flying-foxes also have an increasing tendency to roost in urban areas, or congregate in large ‘camps’ for short periods of time in urban areas, or close to urban areas. This behaviour has significant impact on residents, business owners and the local government bodies left responsible for dealing with the impacts of these animals. Similarly, the fruit-eating nature of the flying-foxes causes tensions with agricultural elements of the community as well.

About the inquiry

Referral

1.4 The Minister for the Environment and Energy, the Hon. Josh Frydenberg MP, wrote to the Committee in mid-October 2016

2 LIVING WITH FRUIT BATS

regarding representations to his office about the impact of flying-foxes in the eastern states of Australia, and asked the Committee to consider including the issue in its work program.

1.5 The Committee received private briefings on the issue, including from the Member for Hunter, the Hon. Joel Fitzgibbon MP.

1.6 Recognising the importance of the issue for affected communities and the requirement to hear consolidated evidence from expert stakeholders, the Committee decided to conduct a short inquiry and wrote to the Minister requesting relevant terms of reference.

1.7 On 10 November 2016, the Committee adopted the terms of reference for the inquiry into flying-fox management in the eastern states (the inquiry) referred by the Minister.

Conduct of the inquiry

1.8 The inquiry was advertised on 10 November 2016 by media release and on the Committee’s web page. Submissions were invited from organisations and individuals, addressing one or more of the terms of reference, with a closing date of 18 November 2016.

1.9 The Committee, keenly aware of community concerns about the impacts of flying-foxes and wishing to ensure timely identification of a way forward, sought to commence work on the inquiry before the end of the parliamentary year. A short timeframe for submissions, and the inquiry as a whole, was therefore necessary.

1.10 The Committee received 68 submissions and 4 supplementary submissions, which are listed at Appendix A. The Committee also received one exhibit, which is listed at Appendix B.

1.11 The Committee received correspondence from several individuals in affected communities, detailing their personal experiences with flying-foxes in proximity to their homes and businesses. This correspondence helped to highlight the impacts that flying-foxes can have on homes and families, and the importance of wider understanding of the behaviours and ecology of flying-foxes across all sectors of the community.

INTRODUCTION 3

1.12 The Committee held a roundtable public hearing in Canberra on 24 November 2016, inviting experts in flying-fox ecology, distribution and management, representatives of some relevant communities, and government agencies responsible for the protection and management of flying-foxes. The witnesses who gave evidence at the roundtable hearing are listed at Appendix C. Submissions received and the transcript of the roundtable public hearing are available on the Parliament of Australia website at: .

Report structure

1.13 The report is comprised of four chapters and outlines the evidence received by the Committee, as well as the comments and recommendations of the Committee in relation to the issue of the management of nationally protected flying-foxes in the eastern states of Australia. Specifically:

 Chapter 2 provides background on flying-foxes and their impacts across the eastern states of Australia.

 Chapter 3 outlines the current regulatory framework for protection and management of flying-foxes at a Commonwealth, state and local government level, as well as some examples of management actions that were brought to the attention of the Committee.

 Chapter 4 concludes by considering potential areas for future investment, research and action regarding flying-fox management in the eastern states of Australia.

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2. Flying-foxes: background and impacts

2.1 This chapter commences by providing background information about flying-foxes in the eastern states of Australia, including their distribution and ecological importance, and how they are protected under federal and state laws. The increasing incidence of urban roosting of flying-foxes, and the subsequent impacts on human communities and the environment, are then considered.

Flying-foxes in Australia

2.2 Flying-foxes (also known as fruit bats) are non-echolocating, fruit and nectar-eating bats from the genus Pteropus.1

2.3 There are four species of flying-fox in mainland Australia:

 Grey-headed Flying-fox (Pteropus poliocephalus);

 Spectacled Flying-fox (Pteropus conspicillatus subsp. conspicillatus);

 Black Flying-fox (Pteropus alecto); and

 Little Red Flying-fox (Pteropus scapulatus).2

1 CSIRO, Submission 66, p. 2.

2 Environmental Defenders Offices of Australia (EDOs of Australia), Submission 27, p. 2.

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2.4 Grey-headed and Spectacled Flying-foxes are nationally protected species located in the south-eastern temperate and northern tropical wet forests, respectively.3 The Black and Little Red Flying-fox are not nationally protected species, and as such their management is the responsibility of state governments under their relevant wildlife legislation. However, both species of unprotected flying-fox coexist with the two nationally protected flying-foxes.4

2.5 Flying-fox species roost in large groups, known as camps, in the exposed branches of trees. Camps generally remain in a similar location, with some camps noted as having been used for more than 100 years. The camps ‘provide resting habitat, sites of social interactions and refuge for animals during phases of their annual cycle, such as birth, lactation and conception’.5

2.6 Tension between human communities and flying-foxes has been recorded for hundreds of years, with various attempts made to manage the species.6 In recent years, increased instances of urban roosting and decreases in the flying-fox population nation-wide has seen the management of the species once again become a concern for relevant authorities.

Nationally protected flying-foxes

Original listing

2.7 The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth) (EPBC Act) provides a legal framework to identify, protect and manage nationally and internationally important flora, fauna, ecological communities, wetlands and heritage places—defined in the EPBC Act as matters of national environmental significance.7

2.8 The Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC) undertakes a scientific assessment of a species’ threat status to determine whether a species is

3 CSIRO, Submission 66, p 2.

4 Department of the Environment and Energy, Submission 63, p. 4.

5 Department of the Environment and Energy, Submission 63, p. 4.

6 CSIRO, Submission 66, p. 11.

7 Department of the Environment and Energy, Submission 63, p. 2.

FLYING-FOXES: BACKGROUND AND IMPACTS 7

eligible for listing as a threatened species under the EPBC Act. When the assessment is complete, the TSSC provides its advice to the Minister for a decision on whether to amend the threatened species list.8

2.9 Both the Spectacled Flying-fox and Grey-headed Flying-fox were listed as Vulnerable under the EPBC Act on the basis of Criterion one of the Act (decline in numbers). The Spectacled Flying-fox also met Criterion five (probability of extinction in the wild is at least 10 per cent in the medium-term).9

2.10 Population decline is measured as the ‘observed, estimated, inferred or suspected reduction’ within a period of the past 10 years or three generations, whichever is longer.10 A decline of 30 to 50 per cent within the period qualifies the species as Vulnerable, of 50 to 80 per cent as Endangered, and of greater than 80 per cent as Critically Endangered.11

2.11 In 2001, the TSSC considered available data from counts of Grey-headed Flying-foxes conducted in 1989 and 1998-2001. A comparison of these counts showed a decrease from at least 566 000 individuals in 1989 to at most 400 000 in 1998-2001.12 This qualified the species for inclusion in the Vulnerable category under the EPBC Act in 2001.

2.12 Counts of Spectacled Flying-foxes undertaken between 1998 and 2000 indicated a decrease in the population from 153 000 individuals in 1998 to approximately 80 000 in 1999 and 2000.13 According to modelling, the species was likely to be extinct in less than 100 years, ‘due to the high levels of death associated with human interactions’.14 The Spectacled Flying-fox was listed as ‘Vulnerable’ under the EPBC Act in 2002.

8 Department of the Environment and Energy, Submission 63, p. 3.

9 Department of the Environment and Energy, Submission 63, p. 3.

10 Dr Peggy Eby, Submission 62.1, p. 3.

11 National Environmental Science Program, Submission 44, p. 3.

12 Australasian Bat Society, Submission 61, p. 5.

13 Department of the Environment and Energy, Submission 63, p. 3.

14 Department of the Environment and Energy, Submission 63, p. 3.

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2.13 When considering the available data, the TSSC acknowledged uncertainties regarding the accuracy of population counts.15 Dr Peggy Eby noted that only a small number of known camps were sampled during the counts in 1989 and 1998-2001, and the available data was compiled to generate the total population size.16 These population estimates were raised with the Committee as a point of contention regarding the original listing of the flying-foxes as Vulnerable. Issues relating to potentially inaccurate population counts are discussed in the next section.

2.14 According to the Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage (now the Department of the Environment and Energy (the Department)), the species were listed in the EPBC Act to recognise that the long-term survival of the species was under threat, to prevent their further decline, and to assist community efforts toward the recovery of the species.17

State protections

2.15 In addition to national protection, several flying-fox species are covered under state environmental protection legislation.

2.16 In Victoria, all native wildlife is protected under the Wildlife Act 1975 (Vic), including microbats and megabats.18 In addition, species can be nominated to the Threatened Species List under the Victorian Flora and Fauna Act 1988 (Vic). These species are assessed using the International Union for

15 Australasian Bat Society, Submission 61, p. 5.

16 Dr Peggy Eby, Submission 62.1, p. 4.

17 Department of the Environment and Heritage, ‘EPBC Act Administrative Guidelines on Significance—Supplement for the Grey-headed Flying-fox’, viewed 20 December 2016; Department of the Environment and Heritage, ‘EPBC Act Administrative Guidelines on Significance—Supplement for the Spectacled Flying-fox’, viewed 20 December 2016.

18 Victorian Government, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, ‘Facts about flying foxes, viewed 20 December 2016.

FLYING-FOXES: BACKGROUND AND IMPACTS 9

Conservation of Nature (IUCN) criteria. The Grey-headed Flying-fox was listed as a threatened species under the Act in 2001. 19

2.17 In New South Wales (NSW), the NSW Scientific Committee assesses nominations under the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 (NSW) based on IUCN criteria.20 The Grey-headed Flying-fox was listed as Vulnerable in 2001. The Scientific Committee identified ‘habitat loss as the primary reason for the decline - particularly the important feeding habitat on the coastal plains of NSW and southern Queensland’.21 In addition, the Department of Environment and Conservation established the NSW Flying-Fox Consultative Committee following the listing in 2001 to provide a means for balanced public input and to develop strategies to conserve and manage flying-foxes in the state.22

2.18 In Queensland, species are assessed by the Special Technical Committee under the Nature Conservation Act 1992 (Qld). They are assessed to meet guidelines for each threatened species level, which include ‘reduction of state-wide population and/or the existence of threatening processes that could put the species at risk of extinction’.23 The Grey-headed Flying-fox is listed as Least Concern under the Act, while the Spectacled Flying-fox was listed as Vulnerable in 2015.24

19 Australasian Bat Society, Submission 61, p. 6.

20 Australasian Bat Society, Submission 61, p. 6.

21 NSW Government, Office of Environment and Heritage, ‘Cumberland Plain Recovery Plan’, viewed 20 December 2016.

22 NSW Government, Office of Environment and Heritage, ‘The NSW Flying-Fox Consultative Committee’, viewed 11 January 2017.

23 Australasian Bat Society, Submission 61, p. 6.

24 Department of the Environment and Energy, ‘Species Profile and Threats Database: Pteropus conspicillatus—Spectacled Flying-fox’, viewed 20 December 2016.

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Ecology, population size and distribution

Ecological and ecosystem importance

2.19 Flying-foxes play a significant role as seed dispersers and pollinators for a wide range of native trees across Australia. In particular, the Grey-headed Flying-fox is considered a ‘keystone species’, with the South East Region Conservation Alliance describing the species as ‘highly significant to the health and maintenance of many ecosystems in eastern Australia’.25 This includes three World Heritage Listed Areas: Fraser Island, the Gondwana Rainforest, and the Greater Blue Mountains.

2.20 The species has the ability to move freely among habitat types, allowing it to spread genetic material across ‘fragmented, degraded and urban landscapes’.26 Some estimates suggest a single Grey-headed Flying-fox can disperse up to 60 000 seeds in one night, travelling hundreds of kilometres. Flying-foxes have been recorded travelling more than 5 400 kilometres in two days between camps.27

2.21 Tamworth Regional Council described the importance of the Grey-headed Flying-fox:

Long-distance seed dispersal and pollination makes flying-foxes critical to the long-term persistence of many plant communities, including eucalypt forests, rainforests, woodlands and wetlands. Seeds that germinate away from their parental plant have a greater chance of growing into a mature plant. This genetic diversity allows species to adapt to environmental change and respond to disease pathogens. Transfer of genetic material between forest patches is particularly important in the context of contemporary fragmented landscapes.

These ecological services ultimately protect the long-term health and biodiversity of Australia’s bushland and wetlands. In turn, native forests act as

25 South East Region Conservation Alliance, Submission 17, p. 1.

26 Environment Institute of Australia and New Zealand, Submission 47, p. 6.

27 Tamworth Regional Council, Submission 48, p. 14.

FLYING-FOXES: BACKGROUND AND IMPACTS 11

carbon sinks, provide habitat for other fauna and flora, stabilise river systems and catchments, add value to production of hardwood timber, honey and fruit, and provide recreational and tourism opportunities worth millions of dollars each year.28

2.22 Submissions also noted the significant role the Spectacled Flying-fox has in maintaining the flora of the Wet Tropics Heritage Area.29 The species feed on the fruit of a number of trees ‘for which no other seed dispersers are known’ and can spread seeds up to 80 kilometres.30

2.23 Due to the ecological importance of flying-foxes, efforts to manage critical habitat is likely to have a positive impact on hundreds of vegetation communities across Australia’s east coast, as well as nectar and fruit-feeding bats, birds, mammals and other fauna.31

Current populations

2.24 Determining accurate counts of current flying-fox populations, and population trends, is essential for the monitoring of the Grey-headed and Spectacled Flying-foxes’ national distribution and conservation status.

2.25 Flying-fox population counts are currently undertaken by the National Flying-fox Monitoring Programme (NFFMP), a collaboration between the Federal Government, state governments in New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory, and the CSIRO.32

2.26 Since November 2012, the NFFMP has conducted quarterly counts across eastern and parts of northern Australia, measuring the population of all four species of Pteropus and all known camps of Grey-headed and

28 Tamworth Regional Council, Submission 48, p. 14.

29 Environmental Defenders Office of Northern Queensland, Submission 11, p. 2; Noel Castley-Wright, Submission 15, p. [2]; Dr John Luly, Submission 55, p. [4].

30 Mr Steve Amesbury, Submission 3, p. 1.

31 Department of the Environment and Energy, ‘Draft Recovery Plan for the Grey-headed Flying-fox (Pteropus poliocephalus)’, January 2017, p. 9.

32 CSIRO, Submission 66, p. 3.

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Spectacled Flying-foxes.33 The data is managed by the CSIRO and is publicly available from the Department.

2.27 Dr David Westcott, Senior Principal Research Scientist, CSIRO Land and Water, told the Committee that results from the NFFMP to date suggest:

… the Grey-headed population is stable at best. It is likely that it is declining slightly. In the case of the Spectacled Flying-fox there is no doubt that it is declining, and has declined dramatically over the last 10 to 15 years.34

2.28 CSIRO detailed a decline in the Spectacled Flying-fox population from 214 000 in November 2005 to approximately 100 000 in November 2015, with no indications of recovery in 2016.35 The population of Grey-headed Flying-foxes in November 2015 was estimated at 672 000, notably with a margin of error of 229 500.36

2.29 Vegetation clearing or modification of critical habitat, occasional extreme heat events and tropical cyclones such as Larry and Yasi were implicated in the decline of the species.37 Flying-foxes are susceptible to extreme heat events, particularly when the temperature exceeds 42 degrees Celsius. It was noted that during a heat wave in the summer of 2014 approximately 45 500 flying-foxes died. Extreme heat events are likely to increase in frequency in coming decades.38 Mass pregnancy loss and premature births are known to occur in response to environmental stress, further lowering the population growth rate.39

2.30 Black Flying-foxes have expanded their southern range limit, increasing their geographic overlap with the Grey-headed Flying-fox. The population

33 CSIRO, Submission 66, p. 3.

34 Dr David Westcott, Senior Principal Research Scientist, CSIRO Land and Water, Committee Hansard, Canberra, 24 November 2016, p. 6.

35 CSIRO, Submission 66, p. 5.

36 CSIRO, Submission 66, p. 8

37 National Environmental Science Program, Submission 44, p. 4.

38 National Environmental Science Program, Submission 44, p. 4.

39 Department of the Environment and Energy, ‘Draft Recovery Plan for the Grey-headed Flying-fox (Pteropus poliocephalus)’, January 2017, p. 9.

FLYING-FOXES: BACKGROUND AND IMPACTS 13

decline in Grey-headed Flying-foxes relative to Black Flying-foxes suggests that indirect competition for resources favours the latter species. The reasons behind this range shift are unclear, as they are not readily explained by climate or habitat change, and further research is required.40

2.31 These occurrences are exacerbated by the species’ limited capacity to recover from large population losses ‘due to their slow sexual maturation, small litter size, long gestation and extended maternal dependence’.41

2.32 On the basis of these findings, the CSIRO suggested in April 2015 that the Spectacled Flying-fox warranted being listed as Endangered under the EPBC Act against Criteria one and five.42 The Committee heard that the TSSC was currently assessing the species for possible uplisting to a higher threat category.43

2.33 Evidence received by the Committee at the public roundtable hearing and in various submissions drew attention to the challenges associated with obtaining accurate flying-fox population counts. Flying-fox monitoring is considered to be prone to uncertainty and errors, due to a number of attributes of the animals. This includes their distribution over tens of thousands of square kilometres44, the size of roosts and camps, the location of camps (usually situated in areas with limited access and visibility) and their rapid movement between camps and regions.45 The Committee heard

40 Department of the Environment and Energy, ‘Draft Recovery Plan for the Grey-headed Flying-fox (Pteropus poliocephalus)’, January 2017, p. 10.

41 Tamworth Regional Council, Submission 48, p. 15.

42 CSIRO, ‘Status and Trends of Australia’s EPBC-Listed Flying-Foxes, April 2015, p. ii, viewed 19 December 2016.

43 Mr Stephen Oxley, First Assistant Secretary, Department of the Environment and Energy, Committee Hansard, Canberra, 24 November 2016, p. 6.

44 National Environmental Science Program, Submission 44, p. 3.

45 CSIRO, Submission 66, p. 3.

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that uncertainties regarding accurate population counts are a source of frustration among communities affected by flying-fox roosting.46

2.34 Due to a lack of available technology, Dr Westcott noted that historical data from flying-fox counts could not be considered reliable, and an accurate comparison between historical and current data could not be made.47 He also noted that due to methodological and other errors associated with the counts, the focus should not be on absolute numbers, but rather the long-term trends in numbers. It was estimated that it would require an additional seven years (from 2016) of monitoring to obtain counts accurate enough to provide robust scientific evidence of population trends.48

Distribution

2.35 The Committee heard that flying-foxes are highly mobile species that follow food sources and often gather in large groups in response to significant flowering events. Both the Spectacled and Grey-headed Flying-fox have complex nomadic patterns, determined by variable flowering and fruiting seasons. Both species exist as continuous populations in Australia. The Grey-headed Flying-fox is widespread throughout its range during summer, and becomes concentrated in NSW during winter.49 The Spectacled Flying-fox is concentrated in the Wet Tropics of Queensland World Heritage Area between Townsville and Cooktown, with roosts located within six kilometres of Mabi Forest rainforest.50

2.36 The two unlisted species, Little Red and Black Flying-foxes, are located across northern and eastern Australia, with the Little Red, the most

46 Councillor Liz Innes, Mayor, Eurobodalla Shire Council, Committee Hansard, Canberra, 24 November, p. 10.

47 Dr Westcott, CSIRO Land and Water, Committee Hansard, Canberra, 24 November 2016, p. 9.

48 Dr Westcott, CSIRO Land and Water, Committee Hansard, Canberra, 24 November 2016, p. 14.

49 Department of the Environment and Energy, Submission 63, p. 3.

50 Department of the Environment and Energy, Submission 63, pp. 3-4.

FLYING-FOXES: BACKGROUND AND IMPACTS 15

widespread megabat in Australia, likely to be found further inland than other flying-foxes.51

2.37 The distribution of Australia’s flying-foxes mainly corresponds with the country’s human population, resulting in on-going tensions between the needs of human communities and flying-foxes.52

2.38 The distribution of known Spectacled Flying-foxes in Australia (in 2010), based on known camps, is illustrated in Figure 2.1.

2.39 The distribution of known Grey-headed Flying-foxes is illustrated in Figure 2.2.

51 NSW Government, Office of Environment and Heritage, ‘Flying-foxes’, viewed 22 December 2016.

52 CSIRO, Submission 66, p. 2.

16 LIVING WITH FRUIT BATS

Figure 2.1 Distribution of Spectacled Flying-foxes

Source Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management, National recovery plan for the spectacled flying fox Pteropus conspicillatus, 2010, p. 15.

FLYING-FOXES: BACKGROUND AND IMPACTS 17

Figure 2.2 Location of camps used by Grey-headed Flying-foxes

Source Department of the Environment and Energy, Draft Recovery Plan for the Grey-headed Flying-fox (Pteropus poliophalus), January 2017, p. 14.

18 LIVING WITH FRUIT BATS

Habitat requirements and roosting behaviour

2.40 The location and size of flying-fox camps depends on the availability of resources within a 20 to 50 kilometre radius of the camps. Although some camps are inhabited continuously, camps are generally temporary and seasonal, corresponding to the flowering of flying-foxes’ preferred food trees.53

2.41 The main source of food for flying-foxes is the nectar and pollen of flowering native trees, including a number of species of eucalyptus, turpentines, paperbarks and banksias. Dr Eby noted the Grey-headed Flying-fox has a preference for the spotted gum, which only flowers once every four years.54 It was noted that this flowering attracts large numbers of flying-foxes, as seen in Batemans Bay (in Eurobodalla Shire) in 2012 and 2016. 55

2.42 Flying-foxes have complex habitat requirements and require ‘multiple populations of food trees dispersed over a large area’. Consequently, the species is vulnerable to habitat degradation, as their preferred food sources are unlikely to exist solely within conservation reserves, such as national parks.56 The difficulty in predicting the locations of productive foraging habitat has resulted in the inability to predict and plan for influxes of flying-foxes to particular areas.

Increased urban roosting

2.43 The increase in flying-fox urban roosting and the subsequent effects on communities located near urban camps was the subject of a large number of submissions to the inquiry. It was noted that communities were on occasions faced with sudden influxes of flying-foxes, hundreds of thousands in the

53 Tamworth Regional Council, Submission 48, p. 15.

54 Dr Peggy Eby, Private capacity, Committee Hansard, Canberra, 24 November 2016, p. 20.

55 Mrs Jessica Bracks, Principal Wildlife Biologist, Ecosure Pty Ltd, Committee Hansard, Canberra, 24 November 2016, p. 21.

56 Department of the Environment and Energy, ‘Draft Recovery Plan for the Grey-headed Flying-fox (Pteropus poliocephalus)’, January 2017, p. 15.

FLYING-FOXES: BACKGROUND AND IMPACTS 19

case of Batemans Bay57, without prior warning. This has caused notable distress to residents of these communities.

2.44 The Committee heard that there has been ‘an exponential increase in the number of flying-fox camps in urban areas over the past 10 to 15 years’.58

2.45 It was noted that while there were a number of hypotheses regarding why flying-foxes have become more urbanised in Australia, no conclusive answer had been reached to date.59

2.46 One of the most common hypotheses presented to the Committee was that the rate of new urban camps had accelerated due to food shortages.60 These food shortages were primarily due to the ongoing loss of winter-spring food caused by vegetation clearing, particularly on the coastal plains of south-eastern Queensland and northern New South Wales. 61 The Department considers the loss of foraging habitat, particularly winter forage, the primary threat to Grey-headed Flying-foxes.62

2.47 Dr Eby described the effects of food shortages:

During food shortages, flying-foxes alter roosting and feeding behaviours in predictable ways that allow them to ‘get by on less’. They increase their use of garden plantings; establish new camps in areas beyond their usual range boundary while searching for food; and they break into small roosting groups, close to feeding sites.

57 Mr Lindsey Usher, Director Planning and Sustainability Services, Eurobodalla Shire Council, Committee Hansard, Canberra, 24 November 2016, p. 8.

58 Dr Eby, Private capacity, Committee Hansard, Canberra, 24 November 2016, p. 4.

59 Dr Westcott, CSIRO Land and Water, Committee Hansard, Canberra, 24 November 2016, p. 6.

60 Dr Alison Peel, Submission 51, p. [1]; Australasian Bat Society, Submission 61, pp. 3-10; Dr Peggy Eby, Submission 62, pp. 7-8; National Environmental Science Program , Submission 44, p. 4, World Wildlife Fund, Submission 37, p. 2; Sydney Coastal Councils Group, Submission 36, p. 4.

61 Tamworth Regional Council, Submission 48, p. 15.

62 Department of the Environment and Energy, ‘Draft Recovery Plan for the Grey-headed Flying-fox (Pteropus poliocephalus)’, January 2017, p. 5.

20 LIVING WITH FRUIT BATS

In the past, the temporary camps flying-foxes formed during food shortages were abandoned once conditions improved. However, in recent years a portion of these ‘temporary’ camps have persisted—leading to an increase in the number of camps in urban areas and a more persistent presence in inland areas, particularly in rural cities and towns. Many of these new camps have become sites of conflict.63

2.48 The loss of native foraging habitat has been coupled with an increase in the availability of reliable food sources in urban environments, including parks, gardens and backyards.64 In particular, there has been an increase in the planting of native and exotic fruit-bearing trees which, while a suboptimal food source for flying-foxes, has attracted the species to urban areas in times of food source shortage.65

2.49 The Committee heard that increased urban roosting had led to misconceptions that flying-fox numbers were increasing dramatically nationwide.66 This further added to the negative perception of flying-foxes overrunning local communities.

2.50 It was suggested that there needed to be a replacement of flying-fox native foraging habitat in low conflict areas, in the hope that it would reduce the huge influxes in numbers to one particular location.67

Impacts: social, economic, environmental and health

2.51 Throughout the inquiry, the Committee received a range of evidence about the negative impacts that increasing incidences of urban roosting of flying-foxes has had on individuals and businesses in affected communities. This evidence is discussed in the remainder of this chapter.

63 Dr Peggy Eby, Submission 62.1, p. 2.

64 Australasian Bat Society, Submission 61, p. 3.

65 Dr Alison Peel, Submission 51, p. [1].

66 Dr Westcott, CSIRO Land and Water, Committee Hansard, Canberra, 24 November 2016, p. 6.

67 Mrs Bracks, Ecosure, Committee Hansard, Canberra, 24th November 2016, p. 21.

FLYING-FOXES: BACKGROUND AND IMPACTS 21

Social impacts

2.52 A number of correspondents and submitters to the inquiry noted the negative social impacts on communities located near urban flying-fox roosts, some of which had significant effect on residents’ quality of life. The Committee acknowledges that the impacts that flying-foxes can have on residents or businesses located close to a camp, or underneath a regular flight path, can be very challenging.

2.53 Nuisance is regarded as a particular issue, from the noise and ‘oppressive’ smell of flying-fox roosts.68 Submissions from residents detailed the impact on their lifestyle, including not being able to utilise their backyards (especially during evenings) for months at a time69, being forced to live with windows and doors constantly closed70, and children not able to use playground equipment.71 Schools have also limited the amount of time schoolchildren spend outdoors and on play equipment, due to the presence of flying-fox roosts in nearby and adjacent areas.72

2.54 Those living in areas near flying-fox roosting sites reported significant issues with sleep disturbance, caused by the loud noises from the camps. This is said to be particularly problematic early in the morning, when flying-foxes return from foraging.73

2.55 Submitters advised that flying-fox excrement has caused damage to private property74, businesses75, and public parks. Residents in some areas were no longer able to leave clothing, cars, toys and other household items outside,

68 Dr Alison Peel, Submission 51, p. [3]; Ms Susan Jenvey, Submission 32, p. [1]; Eurobodalla City Council, Submission 26, p. 2; Mrs Verity Davis-Raiss, Submission 21, pp. [2-5]; Sutherland Shire Council, Submission 22, p. 1; Mr Allan Brown, Submission 7, p. [1].

69 Cessnock City Council, Submission 30.1, p. 4.

70 Ms Gail Vincent, Submission 38, p. 2.

71 Mrs Melissa Paice, Submission 20, p. [2].

72 Mr David Timbury, Submission 58, p. [2].

73 Eurobodalla Shire Council, Submission 26, p. 2; Ms Melissa Paice, Submission 20, p. [1]; Verity Davis-Raiss, Submission 21, p. [4].

74 Eurobodalla Shire Council, Submission 26, p. 2; Cessnock City Council, Submission 30.1, p. 4.

75 Tamworth Regional Council, Submission 48, p. 4.

22 LIVING WITH FRUIT BATS

due to the damage caused by flying-foxes. In some instances, park amenity was disrupted and parks were closed to the public due to health and safety concerns.76

2.56 It was noted that some affected residents felt they were not able to access help when the impacts of flying-foxes became overwhelming. Measures to minimise the social impacts of flying-foxes, such as subsidised services and awareness programs were not always available.77 Furthermore, few resources were available to proactively address the social impacts of flying-foxes, resulting in actions only being taken once large quantities of flying-foxes had already become an issue.78

Economic impacts

2.57 In addition to the social costs of flying-foxes in urban areas, the Committee was informed that individuals, businesses and local governments also incur significant financial costs.

2.58 Flying-fox damage to commercial fruit crops was noted as an ongoing problem for industry, causing economic and emotional distress to those involved.79 While netting is often successful in protecting crops from flying-fox damage, the Committee was advised that the process is costly and not financially viable for all growers.80 The Committee heard that damage to commercial crops may occur when flying-foxes are driven to alternative food sources during periods of food shortage81; therefore the conservation of appropriate habitat, particularly during periods of fruit maturation, is important for limiting commercial losses and mortality of flying-foxes.82

76 Tamworth Regional Council, Submission 48, p. 5; Ms Susan Jenvey, Submission 32, p. [1].

77 Eurobodalla Shire Council, Submission 26, p. 11.

78 Cessnock City Council Staff, Submission 30.1, p. 4.

79 Mr Roger Terrey, Submission 4, p. [1].

80 Growcom, Submission 14, p. [1].

81 Dr Westcott, CSIRO Land and Water, Committee Hansard, Canberra, 24 November 2016, p. 9.

82 Department of the Environment and Energy, ‘Draft Recovery Plan for the Grey-headed Flying-fox (Pteropus poliocephalus)’, January 2017, p. 17.

FLYING-FOXES: BACKGROUND AND IMPACTS 23

2.59 As discussed above, homes and businesses incurred financial costs to repair infrastructure damaged by flying-foxes. Added to these costs was the reported loss of revenue for businesses located near flying-fox roosts, due to flying-fox excrement and excessive noise. It was noted that the tourism industry in particular has been affected.83

2.60 Batemans Bay residents experienced power outages caused by flying-foxes, with some outages lasting for up to nine consecutive nights. This had an economic impact on domestic activities and businesses, and also resulted in the loss of telephone and internet services.84

2.61 The cost to local governments responsible for managing flying-foxes is also significant. In a case study of 17 flying-fox dispersal attempts, costs ranged from tens of thousands to millions of dollars, in the case of active dispersals. 85 This corresponds with submissions from a number of councils, which estimated costs of up to $6.2 million in the long-term in the case of Batemans Bay.86 A number of councils noted that despite the cost, there was a high degree of uncertainty regarding long-term outcomes or success of dispersals.87

Environmental impacts

2.62 Several submissions noted the environmental impacts of increased flying-fox roosting in urban and peri-urban areas. This included the damage to and eventual destruction of roost trees, or the ‘removal of mature attractive or significant trees by councils to provide separation from human

83 Eurobodalla Shire Council, Submission 26, p. 2

84 Eurobodalla Shire Council, Submission 26, p. 3.

85 Ku-ring-gai Council, Submission 16, p. [2].

86 Eurobodalla Shire Council, ‘Summary of Batemans Bay flying fox camp draft dispersal plan May 2016’, viewed 12 January 2017.

87 Northern Beaches Council, Submission 6, p. [2]; Ku-ring-gai Council, Submission 16, p. [2]; Sutherland Shire Council, Submission 22, p. 3; Eurobodalla Shire Council, Submission 26, p. 8; Local Government NSW, Submission 46, p. [4].

24 LIVING WITH FRUIT BATS

inhabitants’.88 Seascape Technology highlighted the Royal Botanic Garden in Sydney, Singleton, Charters Towers and Batemans Bay as examples of areas that had seen damage to roosting trees.89 In the case of the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney, Grey-headed Flying-fox roosting contributed to the death of 33 trees and 35 palms between 1989 and 2009.90 The destruction of mature trees in the Cairns CBD91 and the Hunter Valley was also reported.92

2.63 Tamworth Regional Council stated that flying-fox roosting behaviour had led to vegetation damage in the King George Avenue area, with deterioration in tall tree cover in that area. The larger trees in the area lost portions of their crowns due to the damage, leading to smaller roosting sites. The Council suggested these smaller roost sites may have contributed to the movement of flying-foxes into a historical camp area opposite Bicentennial Park.93

2.64 Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Garden hosted a permanent colony of Grey-headed Flying-foxes from 1986, with the numbers peaking in the summer of 2002-03. The presence of such a large number of flying-foxes roosting all year round in a small and sensitive area damaged heritage-listed vegetation, and the species was subsequently dispersed to a more suitable location in March 2003.94

Health impacts

2.65 Concerns about the impacts of flying-foxes on public health have contributed to negative public perceptions of the species in Australia. An increase in urban roosting has exacerbated these concerns, and has led to extensive media coverage in affected areas.

88 Seascape Technology, Submission 68, p. [3].

89 Seascape Technology, Submission 68, p. [3].

90 The Royal Botanic Gardens & Domain Trust, Exhibit 1, p. iii.

91 Hon. Warren Entsch MP, Committee Hansard, Canberra, 24 November 2016, p. 5.

92 Mr David Timbury, Submission 58, p. [1].

93 Tamworth Regional Council, Submission 48, p. 4.

94 Victoria State Government Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, ‘Flying-foxes’, viewed 15 December 2016.

FLYING-FOXES: BACKGROUND AND IMPACTS 25

2.66 A number of submissions discussed community concerns regarding the public health risks associated with flying-foxes, particularly where roosts were located in urban areas. A public survey conducted by Tamworth Regional Council regarding the presence of flying-foxes in the region identified fear of disease as a ‘major concern’, with 51 per cent of all respondents nominating human health as an issue.95

2.67 In Australia, flying-foxes are natural hosts for a least three zoonotic diseases: the rabies-like Australian Bat Lyssavirus (ABLV); Hendra virus (HeV); and Menangle virus.96 Animal disease outbreaks are generally managed by the relevant state agencies for primary industry and health.

Australian Bat Lyssavirus (ABLV)

2.68 ABLV is found in all flying-fox species in mainland Australia. The incidences of ABLV in flying-foxes is considered low (less than one per cent), however the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries suggests incidences are higher (five to 10 per cent) among sick, injured or orphaned animals.97

2.69 Since it was first identified in Australia in 1996, three people have died as a result of ABLV infection (in 1996, 1998 and 2013)98, after being bitten or scratched by bats.

2.70 According to Australian health authorities, ABLV poses a low public health risk. The virus is transmitted from bats to humans ‘through a bite or scratch, but may have the potential to be transferred if bat saliva directly contacts the

95 Tamworth Regional Council, Submission 48, p. 4.

96 Queensland Government, ‘Bats and human health’ viewed 12 November 2016.

97 Queensland Government, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, ‘Australian bat lyssavirus overview’ viewed 12 November 2016.

98 NSW Health, ‘Rabies and Australian Bat Lyssavirus Infection’, viewed 17 January 2017.

26 LIVING WITH FRUIT BATS

eyes, nose, mouth or broken skin’.99 Exposure can be reduced by not picking up flying-foxes when they are on the ground, and pre- and post-exposure vaccinations are available.100

Hendra virus (HeV)

2.71 HeV is transmitted from flying-foxes to horses, and can then be transmitted from infected horses to other horses, humans and dogs. There is no evidence that HeV can be transmitted directly from flying-foxes to humans. The disease is considered to have a high mortality rate (over 79 per cent in horses and 57 per cent in humans).101 In humans, HeV presents as a serious and often fatal respiratory and/or neurological disease, and treatment options are limited.102

2.72 Since 1994, 81 horses and four of the seven people infected with HeV have died. There was a significant increase in outbreaks of HeV between June and August 2011 (18 outbreaks), which caused the death of 23 horses and the euthanasia of the first dog infected with HeV.103

2.73 Following the outbreak of HeV in 2011, the Intergovernmental Hendra Virus Taskforce was established to undertake long-term planning for disease management. As a result of the taskforce, a HeV vaccine for horses was released in 2012.104

2.74 The 2011 outbreak also resulted in the establishment of the National Hendra Virus Research Program, which provided the initial funding for the

99 Tamworth Regional Council, Submission 48, p. 83.

100 Tamworth Regional Council, Submission 48, p. 83.

101 Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation, Compendium of Findings from the National Hendra Virus Research Program 2016, p. 3.

102 Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation, Compendium of Findings from the National Hendra Virus Research Program 2016, p. 47.

103 Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation, Compendium of Findings from the National Hendra Virus Research Program 2016, p. 3.

104 NSW Department of Primary Industries, ‘Hendra virus vaccine information for vets’ viewed 13 November 2016.

FLYING-FOXES: BACKGROUND AND IMPACTS 27

NFFMP.105 The NFFMP intends to provide data concerning trends in population size, structure and dynamics, which may subsequently be used to predict risk factors including disease transmission and commercial crop damage.106

Other health concerns

2.75 Menangle virus, first isolated in a NSW piggery in 1997, has been recorded in pigs, humans and flying-foxes. The two recorded cases of Menangle virus in Australia caused severe flu-like symptoms in two workers at the same piggery. Both made full recoveries. The virus is thought to be transmitted to pigs from flying-foxes via an oral-faecal matter route.107

2.76 A number of submissions to the inquiry noted concerns regarding the health impacts of flying-fox droppings in urban areas, particularly in backyards, schools, playgrounds and water tanks.108 Health risks associated with droppings primarily relates to the small risk to humans of gastrointestinal disease. As with other animals, flying-foxes may carry a range of bacteria in their gut, and their droppings ‘may cause illness in humans if swallowed’.109 Standard hygiene practices, including frequent handwashing and covering drinking water supplies, is recommended to reduce the incidence of infection.110

2.77 Northern Beaches Council reported that there were a number of issues relating to public health that were not addressed by current government

105 Department of Environment and Energy, ‘Monitoring Flying-Fox Populations, viewed 11 January 2017.

106 Department of the Environment and Energy, ‘Draft Recovery Plan for the Grey-headed Flying-fox (Pteropus poliocephalus)’, January 2017, p. 12.

107 Tamworth Regional Council, Submission 48, p. 84.

108 Mrs Verity Davis-Raiss, Submission 21, p. [3]; Eurobodalla Shire Council, Submission 26, pp. 2-3; Cessnock City Council, Submission 30.1, p. 3; Tamworth Regional Council, Submission 48, p. 4; Mr David Timbury, Submission 58, pp. [1-2].

109 Queensland Health, ‘Bats and human health’, viewed 13 November 2016.

110 Tamworth Regional Council, Submission 48, p. 84.

28 LIVING WITH FRUIT BATS

policies. These include a lack of monitoring of the spread of disease within the flying-fox population in NSW; that chronic issues such as sleep deprivation and disturbance were specific to individuals and not well understood; and that ongoing stress from a lack of amenities and potentially reduced property values are not easily monitored or readily accepted. 111

2.78 As noted above, Eurobodalla Shire Council described the impacts of power outages attributed to flying-foxes as significant, occurring for an extended period of time and affecting the operation of medical equipment such as dialysis machines.112

2.79 Eurobodalla Council also noted reports from the community regarding chronic immune and respiratory illness being caused or exacerbated by living near flying-fox camps and incidence of mental illness caused by feeling ‘trapped’ indoors due to the smell and noise of nearby camps.113 In particular, the Committee was told that residents living near the camp at Batemans Bay reported increased occurrences of asthma, skin irritation and other medical conditions.114

Committee comments

2.80 Flying-foxes are ecologically important species, acting as seed dispersers and pollinators for a wide range of Australian native trees. The Committee recognises that it is essential that efforts are continued to gather accurate population counts of flying-foxes, particularly nationally protected Grey-headed and Spectacled Flying-foxes, to provide accurate data regarding the threats associated with population decline. While noting the challenges inherent in obtaining accurate population data, the Committee believes that the continuation of the NFFMP is required to obtain information about population trends. This data can then be used to identify, preserve and improve critical foraging and roosting habitat, especially in areas away from affected urban areas.

111 Northern Beaches Council, Submission 6, p. 2.

112 Eurobodalla Shire Council, Submission 26, p. 3.

113 Eurobodalla Shire Council, Submission 26, p. 3.

114 Mr Usher, Eurobodalla Shire Council, Committee Hansard, Canberra, 24 November 2016, p. 25.

FLYING-FOXES: BACKGROUND AND IMPACTS 29

2.81 Grey-headed and Spectacled Flying-foxes were listed as Vulnerable under the EPBC Act, due to a recorded decline in numbers. The species were listed in the Act to recognise that the long-term survival of the species was threatened, to prevent a further decline in numbers, and to encourage the recovery of the species. However, in recent decades flying-foxes have become more urbanised in Australia, leading to increases in tensions between flying-foxes and humans. While food shortages, the loss of native habitat and increased availability of reliable food sources in urban areas have been highlighted to the Committee as possible drivers for urban roosting, no conclusive explanation has been found. Further research is required to gain a better understanding of this phenomenon.

2.82 The Committee recognises that the social, economic, environmental and health impacts associated with flying-foxes can be significant, with increased urban roosting leading to adverse effects on residents’ quality of life. In order to address these issues, additional work is required to educate and equip residents with measures to reduce the impact of flying-foxes on their homes and businesses. Community education programs may also improve understanding of health risks and preventative measures.

2.83 These issues are discussed further in Chapter 4.

31

3. Regulation of protection and management actions

3.1 As discussed in Chapter 2, all levels of government in Australia have a role in the protection and management of threatened species. This chapter outlines the current Commonwealth and state regulations relating to protected flying-foxes and the effectiveness of the current regulatory framework. Examples of current management actions and regulatory pathways are then considered.

Current Commonwealth regulation

3.2 At the Commonwealth level, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) provides for protection of the Grey-headed and Spectacled Flying-foxes. Both are matters of national significance under the EPBC Act, and were listed as Vulnerable in 2001 and 2002 respectively.1

3.3 These listings require any individual to gain approval from the Minister for the Environment and Energy—delegated to the Department of the Environment and Energy (the Department)—for any action that ‘will have or is likely to have a significant impact’2 on the populations of the flying-foxes covered by this inquiry.

1 Department of the Environment and Energy, Submission 63, p. 2.

2 Department of the Environment and Energy, Submission 63, p. 6.

32 LIVING WITH FRUIT BATS

3.4 Accordingly, the Department has developed a Referral guideline for management actions in Grey-headed and Spectacled Flying-fox camps3 to help guide any proponents through the requirements to seek approval, or otherwise, for any actions that may have significant impact on the protected flying-foxes.

3.5 This guideline seeks to make the regulation of camp management or dispersal activities as smooth as possible. However, as noted by many submitters to the inquiry and by witnesses at the roundtable public hearing, the referral requirements and management action approvals process can be confusing or poorly informed based on a number of complex factors. These factors are discussed later in this chapter.

3.6 The current referral decision-making requirements are summarised in the guideline, and are outlined in the chart reproduced in Figure 3.1.

3 The guideline can be found at

REGULATION OF PROTECTION AND MANAGEMENT ACTIONS 33

Figure 3.1 Referral decision-making process for management actions in Grey-headed or Spectacled Flying-fox camps

Source Referral guideline for management actions in Grey-headed and Spectacled Flying-fox camps, Commonwealth of Australia, 2015, p.5.

34 LIVING WITH FRUIT BATS

3.7 In essence, the referral guideline is designed to guide and inform individuals and groups (including state and local governments) on whether their actions may impact on the protected flying-fox species and whether their proposed action requires referral to the Minister (via the Department). Interestingly, proposed actions in flying-fox camps that are not nationally-important do not require referral. In these instances, planning and mitigation measures are recommended, but not required.

3.8 The guideline seeks to outline clearly the considerations and processes relevant to managing flying-foxes. However, evidence to the Committee indicated that stakeholders most in need of the guidance are either unaware of its existence, unable to access the relevant information or knowledge, or confused about how it relates to state requirements, or the camp they are affected by. The Committee also heard that the guideline in its present form does not sufficiently cater to the needs of those responding to an urgent camp management issue.

3.9 The Committee was told that local government has particular needs. Dr Peggy Eby summarised the access and knowledge issues:

In my view, the process of devolving responsibilities for camp management has fragmented approaches to management, and disadvantaged local government. There is a case for the processes to support these decisions to devolve to be reviewed. Insufficient or no structure for supporting local government was put in place around the changes, in my understanding, and in many locations the environment and planning staff of individual councils are expected to manage and resolve often intractable, highly controversial problems, having very limited personal experience with flying foxes, very little guidance from state and federal agencies, poor access to information, and limited financial and human resources.4

3.10 The Local Government Association of Queensland also suggested that, with the Queensland Government devolving responsibility to local government, as well as the exclusion of potential referrals by application of the federal referral guideline, there is a lack of relevant data about what unregulated actions are being undertaken. The impact that those actions are having on

4 Dr Peggy Eby, Committee Hansard, Canberra, 24 November 2016, p. 4.

REGULATION OF PROTECTION AND MANAGEMENT ACTIONS 35

flying-fox habitats and behaviours is also going unrecorded, or only being recorded on an ad-hoc basis.5

3.11 Additionally, Ecosure stated that the federal referral guideline defers to state protection frameworks in certain circumstances. Ecosure argues that, in Queensland, this ‘provides very little protection for individual flying-foxes, and next to no protection against population or species-level impacts’.6

3.12 The Committee heard that the current system would benefit from greater coordination and harmonisation across jurisdictions, especially given the nature of the flying-foxes affected. Potential solutions are considered in Chapter 4.

Conservation agreements, management strategies and national interest exemptions

3.13 At the Commonwealth level, the Minister for Environment and Energy can enter into a Conservation Agreement with a body under section 305(1A) of the EPBC Act, where the agreement will result in ‘a net benefit to the conservation of biodiversity’.7 This power may be delegated to the Department.

3.14 In 2016, the Department entered into conservation agreements with the Sunshine Coast Regional Council and the Eurobodalla Shire Council to manage Grey-headed Flying-foxes in their local government areas.8 These conservation agreements negate the need for further referrals of individual management actions, as the agreements define specified classes of action and applicable conditions for ongoing management of the flying-foxes in the applicable areas, with conservation at the core of any of those activities.9

3.15 Conservation agreements would seem like a logical mechanism for managing flying-foxes in the longer-term. However, the small number of

5 Local Government Association of Queensland, Submission 23, p. 5.

6 Ecosure, Submission 53, p. [2].

7 Department of the Environment and Energy, Submission 63, p. 7.

8 Department of the Environment and Energy, Submission 63, p. 7.

9 Department of the Environment and Energy, Submission 63, p. 7.

36 LIVING WITH FRUIT BATS

agreements currently in place does not allow a thorough assessment of the effectiveness of this mechanism at the current time.10

3.16 In addition to the conservation agreements, section 146 of the EPBC Act allows for strategic assessments over a large geographic area and timeframe, where research on population dynamics, past management actions and future planning can be considered, to guide development in a region to minimise impact on species such as the protected flying-foxes. Such an assessment was conducted in the Lower Hunter region of NSW, which contains Grey-headed Flying-fox camps, and has resulted in a management strategy being developed in October 2012 to guide actions in the area.11

3.17 Finally, the Minister for the Environment and Energy can grant an exemption from the requirements of assessment or approval under section 158 of the EPBC Act, if the Minister is satisfied that it is in the national interest to grant such an exemption. Such an exemption was granted to the Eurobodalla Shire Council in May 2016, to allow urgent action to respond to the rapid increase in Grey-headed Flying-foxes in Batemans Bay.12 More detail on this occurrence is included later in this chapter.

3.18 The exemption allowed for a rapid response to a severe community problem in Batemans Bay. The appropriateness of the exemption, however, has been questioned. Humane Society International contends that the provision to grant an exemption is intended to respond to extreme circumstances, and questions whether this definition was satisfied in this case.13 Furthermore, Ecosure suggests that the intervention may have had a detrimental effect on the reproductive cycle of the flying-foxes dispersed or affected.14

10 Department of the Environment and Energy, Submission 63, p. 7.

11 The management strategy can be found at

12 Eurobodalla Shire Council, Submission 26, p. 2.

13 Humane Society International, Submission 50, p. [2].

14 Ecosure, Submission 53, p. [2].

REGULATION OF PROTECTION AND MANAGEMENT ACTIONS 37

Recovery plans

3.19 The development of a national recovery plan under section 270 of the EPBC Act is an essential element of the longer term recovery and effective management of flying-foxes.

3.20 The recovery plan for the Spectacled Flying-fox was developed by the Department in partnership with the Queensland Government and released in April 2011.15 The stated objectives of the plan are:

… to secure the long-term protection of the spectacled flying fox through a reduction in threats to the species’ survival and to improve the availability of scientific information to guide recovery.16

3.21 The Department released a draft recovery plan for the Grey-headed Flying-fox in January 2017, which is open for public comment until April 2017. The plan gives priority to the recovery of the species, through the reduction of threatening processes. Priority actions highlighted in the plan include:

 the identification of key foraging areas and vegetation communities used by Grey-headed Flying-foxes;

 the improvement of winter and spring foraging habitat;

 the protection and enhancement of native roosting habitat critical to the survival of the species;

 to work with local government and private landholders to identify existing roosting habitat, land suitable for creating new or rehabilitated habitat, and areas that are unsuitable for development;

 the continuation of the National Flying-fox Monitoring Programme (NFFMP) in order to provide a more accurate picture of population trends and the development of robust models of Grey-headed Flying-fox life history and population dynamics, to enable predictions of likely threats to the species; and

15 Department of the Environment and Energy, Submission 63, p. 5.

16 Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management, National recovery plan for the spectacled flying fox Pteropus conspicillatus,2010, p. 5.

38 LIVING WITH FRUIT BATS

 to improve the community’s ability to co-exist with Grey-headed Flying-foxes, through improved stakeholder engagement, research, policy and education, and the promotion of practical and cost-effective non-lethal protection measures for commercial crops.17

3.22 The recovery plans for the nationally protected species both reflect the priorities for protecting, conserving and managing the species into the future. However, the long timeframes for action may lead to some frustration within communities. As such, some priorities for the interim are discussed further in Chapter 4.

Current state regulation

3.23 Significant differences exist in flying-fox management requirements across the eastern states, relative to the impact in those states and the government priorities for the state in question. These differences can create confusion and frustration for local land managers and communities, given that the Commonwealth management requirements may defer to differing state frameworks, or actions in one state area may impact on another state, due to the mobile nature of flying-fox populations.

3.24 For example, Eurobodalla Shire Council described these inconsistencies as inequitable, leading parts of the community to feel that they did not have access to management options that were available elsewhere, or that they were being unduly impacted by flying-foxes due to actions undertaken in other states.18

3.25 Outlined below are the current requirements in the eastern states and how they differ between each other and to the Commonwealth requirements outlined earlier in this chapter.

Queensland

3.26 From 2013, the Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (EHP) has issued a limited number of damage mitigation permits

17 Department of the Environment and Energy, ‘Draft Recovery Plan for the Grey-headed Flying-fox (Pteropus poliocephalus)’, January 2017, pp. 20-27.

18 Eurobodalla Shire Council, Submission 26, p. 6.

REGULATION OF PROTECTION AND MANAGEMENT ACTIONS 39

each year under the Nature Conservation Act 1992, allowing the ‘lethal take’ of flying-foxes (not including the Spectacled Flying-fox) by shooting to protect commercial fruit crops.19

3.27 These permits are only granted after non-harmful control measures have been utilised and proven to be ineffective. Fruit growers are permitted to use lethal measures only in conjunction with two non-harmful practices, such as netting.20

3.28 Each permit is considered on a case-by-cases basis, and the number of flying-foxes to be taken is limited by quotas. These quotas are based on wild flying-fox population levels and the conservation status of relevant species. Due to its ‘Vulnerable’ conservation status, permits are not issued for the Spectacled Flying-fox.21

3.29 In terms of non-lethal management options, the Flying-Fox Management Framework was introduced in Queensland in 2013, giving local governments an ‘as-of-right’ authority to manage roosts in Urban Flying-Fox Management Areas.22 Councils meeting the Queensland Code of Practice— Ecologically sustainable management of flying-fox roosts23 are authorised to use non-lethal methods to drive away from, destroy and disturb flying-fox roosts.24 Permission from relevant landholders is required before management measures can be undertaken.

3.30 Local governments may also apply for a Flying-fox Roost Management Permit from EHP to undertake activities that do not meet the Queensland code of Practice and/or to develop a management plan that covers the entire local

19 Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection, Submission 67, p. 3.

20 Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection, Submission 67, p. 3.

21 Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection, Submission 67, p. 3.

22 Local Government Association of Queensland, Submission 23, p. 3.

23 The Code of Practice can be found at .

24 EDOs of Australia, Submission 27, p. 6.

40 LIVING WITH FRUIT BATS

government area. This permit provides a three-year approval to manage flying-fox roosts outside of urban areas.25

3.31 Additionally, individuals are authorised to undertake low impact activities at flying-fox roosts in accordance with the Queensland Code of Practice—Low impact activities affecting flying-fox roosts.26

3.32 These activities must be considered carefully, especially in relation to the removal of trees to create buffer zones, as ‘the removal of trees is restricted to weed species in riparian areas classified by the State Government as Regulated Vegetation Matters of State Environmental Significance’.27

3.33 A number of submissions noted that regulatory changes in Queensland had seen an increase in flying-fox roost dispersals28, some without consultation with neighbouring management authorities29, and in areas that had not previously seen dispersals.30

3.34 The Committee heard that the devolution of flying-fox management regulation to local government had led to unrealistic community expectations that councils can easily and effectively manage flying-foxes.31 This in turn had increased pressure on local government to use dispersal methods, at times without proper consideration of alternative courses of action.32

25 EDOs of Australia, Submission 27, p. 6.

26 The Code of Practice can be found at .

27 Moreton Bay Regional Council, Submission 45, p. [2].

28 CSIRO, Submission 66, p. 10.

29 Australasian Bat Society, Submission 61, p. 8.

30 Ms Dominique Thiriet, Submission 49, p. [3].

31 Local Government Association of Queensland, Submission 23, p. 3; Sydney Coastal Councils Group Inc., Submission 36, p. 6; Moreton Bay Regional Council, Submission 45, p. [1].

32 National Environmental Science Program, Submission 44, pp. 8-9; Ms Dominique Thiriet, Submission 49, p. [3].

REGULATION OF PROTECTION AND MANAGEMENT ACTIONS 41

New South Wales (NSW)

3.35 In NSW, the management of flying-fox populations is set out in the NSW Camp Management Policy 2015. The policy provides a framework within which the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) makes regulatory decisions regarding flying-fox camp management, and provides guidance and advice to communities, local councils and other land managers regarding the management of flying-fox camps.33

3.36 The policy focuses on a management approach ‘on which a hierarchy of options is based on the principle of using the lowest form of intervention required.’ Routine camp management options are considered Level 1 actions, the creation of buffer zones Level 2 actions, and camp dispersal and disturbance Level 3 actions.34

3.37 As part of the policy, OEH has developed the Flying-fox Camp Management Plan Template 2016.35 The template provides guidance for land managers when developing a camp management plan, reducing preparation and implementation timelines. The document enables land managers to input their own data into the template, which is then submitted to OEH for consideration and approval. Licensing of flying-fox camp management actions is streamlined when a camp management plan is prepared in accordance with the template. Approvals for camp management plans are issued by OEH for five years.36

3.38 The NSW Government has tightened regulations on the shooting of flying-foxes for crop protection. Since 1 July 2015, OEH has only issued licences to shoot flying-foxes as a crop protection measure ‘where it considers that flying-fox damage to orchards is the result of special circumstances’.

33 NSW Government Office of Environment and Heritage, Flying-fox Camp Management Policy 2015, p. 1.

34 NSW Government Office of Environment and Heritage, Flying-fox Camp Management Policy 2015, p. 7.

35 The template can be found at .

36 NSW Government Office of Environment and Heritage, Flying-fox Camp Management Policy 2015, p. 14.

42 LIVING WITH FRUIT BATS

Licences are only issued to shoot flying-foxes during the duration of the incursion, and are subject to strict limits.37

3.39 The Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 and the Local Land Services Amendment Act 2016 were passed by the NSW Parliament in November 2016. The bills will repeal the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 and the Nature Conservation Trust Act 2001 in full (upon their proclamation), as well as parts of the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974, creating a single piece of biodiversity legislation. The Local Land Services Amendment Act 2016 will repeal the Native Vegetation Act 2003.38 The NSW Government Office of Environment and Heritage expects the legislation to be in force by mid-2017, but there are no firm dates for the full repeal of the old Acts and commencement of the new Acts at this stage.

3.40 The new legislation intends to enable the regulation of native vegetation in rural and urban areas, facilitate ecological sustainable development, and improve the effectiveness of conservation actions.39

3.41 Several submissions outlined concerns regarding the environmental impact of the new legislation, including a possible increase in the rate of land clearing in NSW40 and the impact the reforms will have on the Grey-headed Flying-fox.41

3.42 Conversely, Hunter Councils noted that provisions within the new legislation may address concerns regarding the misalignment of regulatory frameworks between states and the Commonwealth and the lack of a trigger process to move flying-fox camp management applications from state to Commonwealth consideration.42

37 NSW Government Office of Environment and Heritage, ‘Flying-foxes’, viewed 5 January 2017.

38 NSW Parliamentary Research Service, Threatened species legislation in NSW: a recent history, p. 1.

39 NSW Parliamentary Research Service, Biodiversity Conservation Bill 2016 and Local Land Services Amendment Bill 2016, pp. 5-6.

40 WWF Australia, Submission 37, pp. 1-2.

41 Sydney Coastal Councils Group Inc., Submission 36, pp. 3-4.

42 Hunter Joint Association of Councils, Submission 31, p. 4.

REGULATION OF PROTECTION AND MANAGEMENT ACTIONS 43

Victoria

3.43 In Victoria, flying-fox camps are managed by the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Natural Resources. The City of Geelong is an exception, and has developed its own camp management plan for the camp located within its jurisdiction.43 The Committee only received three submissions from Victoria regarding the inquiry.

Effectiveness of the current regulatory framework

3.44 As outlined above, the EPBC Act requirements for referral of management actions falls on any individual proposing to undertake action that aligns with the relevant categories of impact. In most situations, that responsibility will fall on local government bodies, businesses and producers that have flying-fox camps that affect their residents, properties or businesses.

3.45 Evidence from a range of local councils, individuals, experts and businesses emphasised that the management of flying-fox camps can be onerous and confusing, and often occurs when least expected.

3.46 Cessnock City Council highlighted the confusion that can arise from the requirements to satisfy Commonwealth and state regulatory requirements for planning and management actions, while having to consider the EPBC Act requirements as well. Ultimately, they described the legislative framework as ‘confusing, duplicative and [a] complicated approach to threatened species management’.44

3.47 Eurobodalla Shire Council emphasised that the state and Commonwealth regulatory frameworks can operate independently of each other, leading to duplication and confusion, and can result in lengthy delays to urgent management actions (such as those undertaken in Batemans Bay).45

43 Australasian Bat Society, Submission 61, p. 8.

44 Cessnock City Council, Submission 30.1, p. 7.

45 Eurobodalla Shire Council, Submission 26, p. 5.

44 LIVING WITH FRUIT BATS

3.48 Other councils raised similar concerns, contending that duplication or a lack of coordination cause delays or confusion.46

3.49 However, some councils, such as the Sunshine Coast Council, did not identify issues with coordination between state and Commonwealth requirements.47 It is unclear whether this reflects favourable experiences with the regulatory system, or as in Ku-ring-gai Council’s case, an absence of experience with EPBC Act referrals.48

3.50 Additionally, some councils identified the issues they have experienced with state management or protection regulations, especially in relation to the Queensland Government’s devolution of flying-fox camp management activities to local government. The Local Government Association of Queensland was especially critical of the 2013 move to introduce a Flying-Fox Management Framework that devolved all management responsibility to under-prepared and under-resourced local councils.49

3.51 The Committee also received a number of pieces of correspondence from affected community members, outlining the lifestyle impacts of living in close proximity to flying-fox camps (as outlined in Chapter 2). The importance of making sure that communities are educated about the value of these animals to the ecosystem, while also catering for the responsible management of the species into the future, is a key area for future focus.

3.52 A number of other submitters also expressed concern that devolution of management regulation and coordination would have a detrimental effect

46 Maitland City Council, Submission 5, p. [1]; Sutherland Shire Council, Submission 22, p. 2; Local Government Association of Queensland, Submission 23, p. 5; Kempsey Shire Council, Submission 24, p. [1]; Hunter Joint Organisation of Councils, Submission 31, p. 4; Port Stephens Council, Submission 41, p. 2; Moreton Bay Regional Council, Submission 45, p. [1].

47 Sunshine Coast Council, Submission 54, p. 3.

48 Ku-ring-gai Council, Submission 16, p. [2].

49 Local Government Association of Queensland, Submission 23, p. 3.

REGULATION OF PROTECTION AND MANAGEMENT ACTIONS 45

on the effective protection and longer-term successful management of flying-fox populations.50

3.53 Sydney Coastal Councils Group also expressed concern that the proposed relaxation of NSW environmental protections, such as repealing the Native Vegetation Act 2003 (NSW), could impact on many species, including nationally protected flying-foxes.51

3.54 The requirement for clearer guidance, coordination, education and action on these issues is discussed in Chapter 4.

Current management actions: does ‘best practice’ exist?

3.55 The management practices that can be undertaken when a flying-fox camp impacts on an urban environment, or a commercial interest, are generally limited to dispersal or habitat alteration. Technically, habitat alteration is a form of dispersal, as the modification of the roosting environment will generally dissuade flying-foxes from returning.

3.56 Dispersal activities are generally categorised as either passive or active. Passive dispersal occurs when the flying-fox is deterred from landing in a tree, either by installing a sprinkler system or netting, or by creating a buffer zone where vegetation is removed to create a separation between the camp and residents or businesses.

3.57 Active dispersal refers to an action undertaken to physically disturb the flying-foxes from an established roosting spot, using light, noise, smoke or other elements that will drive them from the current location.

3.58 The passive options are considered less stressful for the flying-foxes as they replicate more closely occurrences in nature. For example, ‘[a] tree might fall

50 Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales, Submission 10, p. 3; WWF Australia, Submission 37, p. 2; Ecosure, Submission 53, p. [3]; Dr John Luly, Submission 55, p. [2]; Dr Peggy Eby, Submission 62, p. 9.

51 Sydney Coastal Councils Group, Submission 36, p. 4.

46 LIVING WITH FRUIT BATS

down and that roost may not be available to them anymore when they come back from foraging’.52

3.59 In an effort to gauge the effectiveness of dispersals, Ecosure provided a summary of camp management activities in Queensland from November 2013 to November 2014. It noted that the incidence of dispersals had increased considerably (25 attempted roost dispersals in the year from November 2013 to November 2014, compared with an average of 0.4 dispersals per year between 1990 and June 2013).53

3.60 Dispersal methods identified by Ecosure included ‘fog, birdfrite, lights, noise, physical deterrents, smoke, extensive vegetation modification, water (including cannons), paintball guns and helicopters’. The most common method was extensive vegetation modification, sometimes combined with other methods.54

3.61 Ecosure questioned the effectiveness of dispersal methods used in Queensland. It contended that in nine of the 24 roosts dispersed, the actions taken did not reduce the number of flying-foxes within the local government area. When the flying-foxes were successfully dispersed, they did not move further than six kilometres away and, as of November 2014, repeat actions were required in 18 cases.55

3.62 In April 2015, the Northern Beaches Council adopted the Cannes Reserve Flying-fox Camp Management Plan to alleviate the impacts of Grey-headed Flying-foxes on immediately adjacent residents. Dispersal commenced in July 2015, with numbers reduced to zero within two weeks. Grey-headed Flying-foxes returned to Cannes Reserve in November 2015 with young present. Maintenance dispersal was attempted but was not successful. Dispersal was not undertaken in 2016, with Council determining that the success of the program could be maintained with habitat modification, that

52 Mrs Jessica Bracks, Principal Wildlife Biologist, Ecosure, Committee Hansard, Canberra, 24 November 2016, p. 18.

53 Ecosure, Submission 53, p. [6].

54 Ecosure, Submission 53, p. [6].

55 Ecosure, Submission 53, p. [6].

REGULATION OF PROTECTION AND MANAGEMENT ACTIONS 47

dispersals would not completely remove flying-foxes in the long term, and that dispersals required significant resources and took a toll on staff.56

3.63 The Committee heard that, while dispersals may be ineffective in some cases, there are instances where they are the only management option currently available. In the case of Eurobodalla Shire Council, the sudden influx of flying-foxes in Batemans Bay necessitated the council to consider dispersal.

3.64 Mr Lindsay Usher, Director Planning and Sustainability Services, Eurobodalla Shire Council, described the situation faced in Batemans Bay in 2016:

We were forced into a situation where we had to look at dispersal. I am often asked whether it was successful. I think that as to the longer term I cannot answer that question, but I can say it was very successful in the shorter term. We were able to move the flying foxes out of people’s backyards, we were able to give those people some relief, we were able to give those people their lives back and we were able to go in and establish some buffers which will hopefully mitigate impacts in the future.57

3.65 The Committee heard that, while dispersals were necessary on occasion and had alleviated some concerns, current management tools were not sufficient to resolve the problem of flying-foxes roosting in urban areas. In order to return flying-foxes to their natural habitats, greater long-term planning and research were advocated.58

Examples of regulatory pathways and management actions

Royal Botanic Garden Sydney

3.66 The Royal Botanic Garden (RBG) in Sydney has had one of the highest-profile and most successful longer-term dispersal and management

56 Environment Institute of Australia and New Zealand, ‘Cannes Reserve Flying-fox Camp Management’, viewed 11 January 2017.

57 Mr Lindsay Usher, Director Planning and Sustainability Services, Eurobodalla Shire Council, Committee Hansard, Canberra, 24 November 2016, p. 8.

58 Mr Phillip Patrick Shaw, Managing Director, Ecosure, Committee Hansard, Canberra, 24 November 2016, p. 18.

48 LIVING WITH FRUIT BATS

programs in place for a roost of Grey-headed Flying-foxes that established a camp in the Palm Grove within RBG in 1989.

3.67 The Palm Grove is the oldest and most significantly planted area of the RBG heritage site. Between 1989 and 2012, 33 trees and 35 palms in the Palm Grove died as a result of sustained defoliation due to flying-fox camps. An extra 60 trees and palms were considered to be in a critical condition. Dispersal and relocation approval was sought and granted prior to 2012 through both the NSW and Commonwealth governments.59

3.68 The approved actions for the dispersal activities culminated in pre-dawn and dusk noise dispersal activities and continued observation and dispersal over time whenever flying-foxes were observed trying to roost again.60

3.69 Flying-foxes from the camp were fitted with satellite tracking collars and their dispersal was monitored. Some of the animals tracked dispersed to other roosts within the greater Sydney area, however some tracked individuals dispersed 1 100 kilometres to the north in the Boyne Valley in Queensland, with others extending nearly 780 kilometres to the south into Geelong in Victoria.61 This movement to distant colonies is an example of the highly mobile nature of Grey-headed Flying-foxes.

3.70 Ultimately, the complicated, highly-regulated and closely monitored dispersal efforts in the RBG have been successful. The camp was dispersed within one week in 2012, and has been deterred from re-establishing since that time.62

3.71 However, the example of the RBG case is not a good indicator of average efforts with typical resources. Continued observation and dispersal activities are ongoing, though the RBG reports ‘in 2015-16 no management actions

59 The Royal Botanic Gardens & Domain Trust, Exhibit 1, p. iii.

60 The Royal Botanic Gardens & Domain Trust, Annual Report 2013-2014, p. 24.

61 The Royal Botanic Gardens & Domain Trust, Exhibit 1, p. 19.

62 The Royal Botanic Gardens & Domain Trust, Exhibit 1, p. 31.

REGULATION OF PROTECTION AND MANAGEMENT ACTIONS 49

were required to deter grey-headed flying-foxes from resuming roosting within the Royal Botanic Garden, following the dispersal in 2012’.63

3.72 While the RBG does not disclose the exact cost of the dispersal program in their annual reports, the efforts in Sydney, and similar efforts in the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne have reportedly cost ‘millions’.64 Ecosure estimate the costs of the dispersals at greater than $1 million and $3 million for Sydney and Melbourne respectively.65

Eurobodalla Shire Council

3.73 The high-profile dispersal and management action undertaken in Batemans Bay in June and July 2016 illustrates a regulatory pathway that can respond to rapid and large-scale impact from an urban flying-fox roost.

3.74 The Water Gardens Reserve in Batemans Bay had recorded a Grey-headed Flying-fox presence since 2012 and the council had adopted the Water Gardens Grey-headed Flying-fox Camp Management Plan 2015, in an attempt to manage impact and interaction with surrounding residents.66

3.75 However, in April 2016 the population of flying-foxes in the Gardens expanded exponentially from ‘… virtually none to estimates of 300,000 plus over a matter of a couple of weeks’.67 This appeared to coincide with an extraordinary seasonal flowering event, culminating in approximately 50 to 70 per cent of the entire national population of Grey-headed Flying-foxes roosting and foraging in Batemans Bay at that time.68

3.76 The response to this extraordinary event was the issuing of the National Interest Exemption outlined earlier in this chapter, resulting in rapid dispersal and mitigation activities (vegetation removal and buffer zone

63 The Royal Botanic Gardens & Domain Trust, Annual Report 2015-2016, p. 21.

64 Dr Pia Lentini, Secretary, Australasian Bat Society, Committee Hansard, Canberra, 24 November 2016, p. 16.

65 Ecosure, Submission 53, p. [9].

66 Eurobodalla Shire Council, Submission 26, p. 2.

67 Mr Usher, Eurobodalla Shire Council, Committee Hansard, Canberra, 24 November 2016, pp. 11-12.

68 Eurobodalla Shire Council, Submission 26, p. 2.

50 LIVING WITH FRUIT BATS

creation). These actions came at a significant cost of $3 million69, including a $2.5 million grant from the NSW Government.70

3.77 The Committee heard that the situation in Eurobodalla Council in 2016 was temporary, with heavy flowering of native trees attracting an unusually high number of flying-foxes to the area.71 It was noted that when the dispersal efforts began mid-2016, flying-foxes had already started to leave the area, due to a reduction in food availability.72

3.78 This rapid response has been followed by the establishment of a conservation agreement, as outlined earlier in this chapter. However, the factors leading to the Batemans Bay situation are not completely understood, making it difficult to determine whether a similar response would be necessary or as effective in future. For example, the same flowering event may occur again, or may occur elsewhere, or the end of the flowering event may have led to the flying-foxes naturally dispersing, as outlined above.

3.79 The information and tools required to understand these situations and determine the appropriate response are discussed further in Chapter 4.

Other regulatory and management issues

3.80 The Committee received a number of submissions from local councils with experience of the regulatory frameworks (either state or Commonwealth) for proposed or undertaken flying-fox management activities. As outlined earlier in this chapter, a number of these stakeholders expressed confusion or frustration about duplicate processes.

3.81 Cessnock City Council staff noted that the duplication of legislation adds time and complexity to the process unnecessarily, impacting adversely on assessment turnaround times and often delaying applications for lengthy

69 Councillor Liz Innes, Mayor, Eurobodalla Shire Council, Committee Hansard, Canberra, 24 November 2016, p. 21.

70 Mr Usher, Eurobodalla Shire Council, Committee Hansard, Canberra, 24 November 2016, p. 11.

71 Mrs Bracks, Ecosure, Committee Hansard, Canberra, 24 November 2016, p. 17.

72 Mr David Amesbury, Submission 3, pp. 6-7.

REGULATION OF PROTECTION AND MANAGEMENT ACTIONS 51

periods. The assessment delay subsequently places more risk on the viability of proposals.73

Committee comments

3.82 Throughout the inquiry the Committee was presented with evidence that flying-foxes are ecologically important and should be managed appropriately to ensure their protection and conservation. However, noting the genuine negative effects that flying-fox camps can have on communities, it is imperative that a balance is struck between their social and environmental impacts, and their conservation, protection and environmental contributions. The Committee is keen to ensure that the regulatory framework enables affected communities to effectively manage the impacts of problematic flying-fox camps, while still ensuring that appropriate environmental protections are in place.

3.83 In some cases, flying-fox camps may be temporary, and councils are well-placed to assist affected residents to cope with any issues during the camp’s existence. The Committee notes the range of mitigation tools offered by councils (including subsidised cleaning equipment, access to high pressure cleaners, clotheslines, car and boat covers74, providing semi-covered walkways and assistance in netting backyard fruit trees) proved beneficial in limiting some flying-fox impacts.75

3.84 Communication between residents and councils is also important, and councils are well-placed to proactively identify areas of future tensions and engage with local residents. This may include education campaigns76 and online engagement tools, highlighting the importance of flying-foxes and the mitigation options available to residents.77 There is a role for the

73 Cessnock City Council Staff, Submission 30.1, p. 7.

74 Tamworth Regional Council, Submission 48, p. 23; Local Government NSW, Submission 46, p. [4]; Sydney Coastal Councils Group, Submission 36, p. 8.

75 Environment East Gippsland, Submission 43, p. [1].

76 Banana Shire Council, Submission 39, p. [2].

77 Sydney Coastal Councils Group, Submission 36, p. 8.

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Commonwealth in providing resources and coordination services for local councils, and this is discussed further in Chapter 4.

3.85 In some situations, modification of the environment may be an efficient and cost-effective means of managing flying-fox roosts. Such measures include improving roost habitats away from residential areas, removal of trees on private property78, the creation of vegetation buffer zones and installing canopy sprinklers in trees.79 Swimming pools and water tanks can be managed, visual/sound/smell barriers with fencing or hedges can be installed80, and double glazed windows and air conditioners should be considered, especially if the flying-fox camp is of a temporary or seasonal nature.

3.86 However, the Committee recognises that in severe cases the only option may be dispersal.

3.87 The Committee is confident that the above resources, together with the prioritisation of the other measures recommended in Chapter 4, can help achieve an appropriate balance for communities in the eastern states affected by flying-fox camps.

78 Ku-ring-gai Council, Submission 16, pp. [4-11].

79 Mrs Bracks, Ecosure, Committee Hansard, Canberra, 24 November 2016, p. 17.

80 Tamworth Regional Council, Submission 48, p. 23.

53

4. Options for reform

4.1 The Committee received multiple pieces of evidence from a range of stakeholders that highlighted the need for national coordination of management actions with respect to flying-fox camps, as well as any future research or efforts to educate stakeholders on flying-fox ecology, roosting or behaviour. In this chapter, the Committee proposes a range of measures to assist communities in the eastern states, while providing some actions that can be undertaken in the shorter-term to provide improved protection and conservation for flying-fox species.

National coordination of management actions

4.2 The requirements for federal referral of some management actions, based on the Referral guideline for management actions in grey-headed and spectacled flying-fox camps under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act), coupled with the different state-based referral requirements leads to confusion, potential duplication of effort and wasted time and resources, especially for local government bodies with limited resources.

4.3 While the Department of the Environment and Energy (the Department) aims to communicate with state governments and identified local government bodies, the message received by the Committee from individuals and other stakeholders is that the information about flying-foxes and their management is not known, or poorly communicated or coordinated in some instances. The Department acknowledged that in the past few years, and especially in the last 12 months, there have been

54 LIVING WITH FRUIT BATS

increased efforts in coordinating with the responsible state agencies to avoid duplication1, but the Committee believes more can be done.

4.4 During the roundtable public hearing, a number of witnesses emphasised that direct management of flying-foxes required local (or site-level) expertise and action, but needed to be better coordinated. The Committee heard that there was a role for national coordination, both in the referral and approval of the actions, as well as the capture and management of the data or outcomes of the management actions undertaken, which could then be accessed or referenced for similar actions elsewhere.2

4.5 Equally, the mobile nature of the national population of flying-foxes (especially the Grey-headed Flying-fox) requires national coordination, as the response in one state or local government area will often affect other areas. The separation between state and federal government management and monitoring has led to disparate sources of action and knowledge about the actions undertaken and the subsequent population effects.3

4.6 It was noted these inconsistencies may be addressed through a common assessment process, which is currently being considered as part of the National Review of Environmental Regulation4 and efforts to develop an integrated national listing of threatened species.5 However, the Committee believes more can be done in managing these kinds of reforms, as set out below.

1 Mr Stephen Oxley, First Assistant Secretary, Department of the Environment and Energy, Committee Hansard, Canberra, 24 November 2016, pp. 24-25.

2 Mr Phillip Shaw, Managing Director, Ecosure; Mr Lindsay Usher, Director Planning and Sustainability Services, Eurobodalla Shire Council; Dr Pia Lentini, Secretary, Australasian Bat Society; Ms Deborah Lenson, Divisional Manager Environmental Services, Eurobodalla Shire Council;Dr David Westcott, Senior Principal Research Scientist, CSIRO Land and Water, Committee Hansard, Canberra, 24 November 2016.

3 Local Government Association of Queensland, Submission 23, p. 5.

4 Department of the Environment and Energy, ‘National Review of Environment Regulation, viewed 20 December 2016.

5 National Environmental Science Program, Submission 44, p. 6.

OPTIONS FOR REFORM 55

4.7 In a similar vein to the NSW Flying-Fox Consultative Committee referred to in Chapter 2, the Committee sees merit in establishing a national (or at least eastern states) consultative committee or working group on flying-fox management, research and education, to ensure that efforts are not being duplicated, nor knowledge lost.

4.8 Such a committee or working group could formalise the sharing of research relevant to all stakeholders. The current disconnect was evidenced at the roundtable public hearing, where witnesses such as Dr Pia Lentini outlined current or upcoming research which other witnesses were unaware of.6

4.9 While the Committee is aware that a lot of stakeholders within the flying-fox academic and research community are aware of ongoing activities or developments, a national committee or working group could facilitate the central capture and coordination of these efforts and feed information into a concerted education and communication campaign, as outlined later in this chapter.

4.10 For the creation of such a committee or working group to be appropriately considered and given the attention it deserves, the Committee considers that the potential establishment of such a body needs to be raised at the Council of Australian Governments, to enable the appropriate priority and resourcing to be discussed.

4.11 Central to this concept achieving its aim is the commitment of the federal and relevant state governments to cooperation and alignment on flying-fox management and referrals, as well as centralised funding and research coordination.

4.12 The Committee is conscious that the pressures from all flying-foxes, including the Grey-headed and Spectacled Flying-foxes, are often unique to the region affected. However, the nature of the pressures on the flying-fox populations and the increasing impact that this is having on urban environments, industry and individuals, means that a coordinated and concerted response is necessary.

6 Dr Lentini, Australasian Bat Society, Committee Hansard, Canberra, 24 November 2016, pp. 13-16.

56 LIVING WITH FRUIT BATS

4.13 This coordination is even more important in light of the identified recovery objectives included in the draft recovery plan for the Grey-headed Flying-fox as outlined in Chapter 3.

Recommendation 1

4.14 The Committee recommends that the Australian Government propose a national or eastern states flying-fox consultative committee or working group to the Council of Australian Governments. The consultative committee or working group would be responsible for centrally compiling information on referrals and management actions, and identifying priorities for legislative harmonisation, research and funding for future action in the management of nationally protected flying-foxes.

Funding for priority actions, research and data

4.15 As outlined in the previous chapters, the research and monitoring of nationally protected flying-foxes is central to understanding the current populations, conservation requirements, ecological importance and impacts of the species.

4.16 Through submissions and the roundtable public hearing, it was evident that the National Flying-fox Monitoring Programme (NFFMP) is important in guiding the data for consideration of the listing of flying-foxes under the EPBC Act, as well as for targeting other activities and research.

4.17 The status of flying-fox populations, their movement between camps, and the accurate estimation of different species’ abundance and their breeding and mortality is essential to being able to afford all species the appropriate classifications under federal and state legislation and the protections and management protocols that come with those classifications.

4.18 Essential to this research is the established requirement that 13 years of sustained population research is necessary to enable a baseline measurement to trigger EPBC Act threshold measurements (positive or negative).7

7 CSIRO, Submission 66, p. 4.

OPTIONS FOR REFORM 57

4.19 If accurate tracking and research into Grey-headed Flying-foxes corroborates the population decline and pressures expected by current population estimates, then the basis for the afforded protections can be incorporated into the education and communication tools outlined later in this chapter. If the population data suggest otherwise, then it can form the basis for appropriate reclassification or declassification as required.

4.20 Similarly, research is important in building the knowledge base on flying-fox behaviour, environmental and habitat pressures, and the drivers of nectar production. Research is also vital for identifying appropriate management activities to implement in affected communities.

4.21 The Committee notes with interest that the behaviours of flying-foxes causing the most conflict or concern (increasing urban roosts, population movements) are not well understood. As outlined at the roundtable public hearing, there are many hypotheses around why urban roosts are increasing, but no conclusive answers exist.8

4.22 The Queensland Government outlined current satellite tracking research into understanding flying-fox roosts in urban areas9, however this research is currently limited to Little Red Flying-foxes.10 This disconnect between the requirements for national research into such behaviours and the limitations of current research into the nationally protected species of flying-foxes, strengthens the case for nationally-coordinated efforts into such endeavours.

4.23 Research into understanding roosting behaviours and population dynamics is necessary for achieving the recovery objectives stated in the Draft National Recovery Plan for the Grey-headed Flying-fox.11 The loss of original habitat, identification of urban food sources and range overlap investigation are also

8 Dr Westcott, CSIRO Land and Water, Committee Hansard, Canberra, 24 November 2016, pp. 6, 9.

9 Department of Environment and Heritage Protection Queensland, Submission 67, p. 1.

10 Queensland Government, ‘Satellite tracking to be deployed for flying fox management’, viewed 16 January 2017.

11 Department of the Environment and Energy, Draft National Recovery Plan for the Grey-headed Flying-Fox (Pteropus poliocephalus), January 2017, pp. 20-25.

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important research priorities, to enable sufficient data to inform future actions.

4.24 Continuing and guaranteed funding for research, as well as any resultant actions, is crucial to guarantee meaningful data for the relevant agencies or stakeholders. The Draft National Recovery Plan for the Grey-headed Flying-fox states that the costs for implementing priority actions should be incorporated into the core business expenditure of affected organisations as well as additional funds obtained for the explicit purpose of implementing the recovery plan.12 However, the Committee believes that committed funding and resources from the Commonwealth should be allocated, along with the coordination efforts called for in Recommendation 1.

4.25 The inconsistent funding basis for the NFFMP was discussed at the roundtable public hearing13, and disparate funding arrangements for efforts such as those being undertaken by the National Environmental Science Program (NESP) and its emerging priorities funding, would benefit from a central, coordinated and larger funding pool for research that could then be utilised by a central coordinating body and disseminated to stakeholders such as local councils.

4.26 Additional research is also required to look into incidental human health impacts relating to flying-foxes. Some submissions to the inquiry suggested there were increased incidences in asthma, skin irritation and other conditions associated with the presence of flying-foxes in urban areas. Such research is vital for providing certainty for the community and health authorities.

4.27 Finally, in order to achieve the full range of priority actions recommended in the national recovery plans for the Spectacled and Grey-headed Flying-foxes, as discussed in Chapter 3, the Committee believes further research

12 Department of the Environment and Energy, Draft National Recovery Plan for the Grey-headed Flying-Fox (Pteropus poliocephalus), January 2017, p. 26.

13 Mr Gregory Andrews, Threatened Species Commissioner, Department of the Environment and Energy; Dr Westcott, CSIRO Land and Water; Mr Oxley, Department of the Environment and Energy, Committee Hansard, Canberra, 24 November 2016, pp. 9-11, 13-14.

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and funding commitments are required to enable the protection and enhancement of critical roosting and foraging habitat.

Recommendation 2

4.28 The Committee recommends that the Australian Government establish a dedicated funding pool for flying-fox research and conservation actions, to enable:

 continued funding of the National Flying-fox Monitoring Programme for at least the next 10 years;

 committed funding for the priority actions outlined in the recovery plans for both the Spectacled Flying-fox and Grey-headed Flying-fox;

 targeted national research into flying-fox roosting behaviours and habitat loss impacts; and

 any other research that allows for the timely evaluation of flying-foxes under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, informed by rigorous data, at the earliest opportunity.

Decision framework for councils and other managing bodies

4.29 As outlined in Chapters 2 and 3, the current framework for referring management actions in nationally-important flying-fox camps containing Grey-headed or Spectacled Flying-foxes is established by the Referral guideline for management actions in grey-headed and spectacled flying-fox camps.

4.30 This guideline, paired with the relevant state or territory requirements for management actions where the nationally protected flying-foxes are not involved, satisfy the current legislative requirements for protection, conservation and management of flying-fox camps that may be impacting on human populations. However, the legislative requirements can be confusing or not appropriate as a first port of call for individuals, affected communities, businesses or local governments.

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4.31 Accordingly, an easy-to-access, universal, decision making tool needs to be developed to aid councils (as a primary target audience) in navigating the different requirements and sources of information they need to make decisions, or steer people to the relevant information. This decision making tool was identified as a priority by the CSIRO during the roundtable public hearing.14 The Committee notes that researchers for the NESP identified that they were already developing such a framework through the Threatened Species Recovery Hub.15 The Committee considers this work can help inform the development of a nationally consistent framework, to be used by all relevant stakeholders.

4.32 The Committee believes that a framework developed in consultation with the federal and state governments, informed by the relevant research and scientific bodies, could help councils:

 identify flying-fox camps in their jurisdiction, through guided use of the NFFMP viewer and other relevant sources;

 assess whether the camps potentially include nationally protected species and whether the populations are static or seasonal/transitional;

 consider any past management actions undertaken locally or otherwise, and their effectiveness;

 decide on the most appropriate management options and refer matters as appropriate (state, federal or both); and

 provide education to affected communities (as covered in the next section).

4.33 This tool should be developed in consultation with the relevant councils, as the primary land managers and stakeholders responsible for flying-fox management in most situations, to ensure that the language and resources developed are appropriate and effective.

4.34 These resources should also be scalable to apply to the different management scenarios that may arise, and reflect the appropriate state and

14 Dr Westcott, CSIRO, Committee Hansard, Canberra, 24 November 2016, p. 23.

15 Dr Lentini, Australasian Bat Society, Committee Hansard, Canberra, 24 November 2016, p. 16.

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federal regulations. Councils should be provided with guidance on a wide range of scenarios, including:

 small, seasonal flying-fox camps which have minimal impact—with effective mitigation strategies to be highlighted for affected residents, such as the use of car covers, health considerations, and so on;

 flying-fox camps that are impacting on residents, and the regulatory pathway that applies;

 higher impact camps, and the considerations for councils and communities, such as: management options available, communication resources and strategies available, regulatory pathways that apply, and appropriate actions including dispersal activities and interventions by the Minister for the Environment and Energy.

4.35 Councils will be able to apply the decision tool to gauge these range of situations, and allow communities to understand the appropriate management options available under a variety of circumstances.

4.36 Development of such a decision tool requires cooperation and open communication, as well as a degree of alignment across states. Such a tool will enable councils to understand their obligations, identify possible options under various scenarios, and communicate this information easily to their communities.

4.37 The Committee notes that the NSW Camp Management Policy 2015 already establishes a hierarchy of options for actions within that state, and could be used as a development starting point for a national tool. The development of this decision tool should be prioritised by the Department, and could be informed by any national coordination committee or working group established as a result of Recommendation 1.

Recommendation 3

4.38 The Committee recommends that the Department of the Environment and Energy develop, in consultation with relevant state and local governments, a tool that assists councils to make decisions on action, referral and education in the most appropriate way, relevant to the flying-fox impacts in their jurisdiction.

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Public and community education

4.39 Throughout the inquiry, the Committee was presented with evidence that demonstrated the varying levels of understanding and priorities of different sections of the community regarding flying-foxes in general, and their conservation status.

4.40 Whilst there is a significant amount of publicly-available information on flying-foxes and their ecology, behaviours and environmental importance, many people in the community do not access this information until a flying-fox camp becomes a concern.

4.41 Some community members find the official advice on conservation status to be at odds with their own experiences, having been exposed to large camps of flying-foxes and their impacts.

4.42 The Committee appreciates that problematic camps can cause distress and damage to communities, businesses and community attitudes. Part of this appears to stem from a lack of information from the relevant levels of government and a lack of available information regarding the potential and perceived health risks from flying-foxes.

4.43 The current requirement for interested stakeholders, including councils, to access and synthesise the relevant information from official sources often leads to the delayed communication of relevant information to affected households and businesses.

4.44 The Australasian Bat Society and Banana Shire Council recommend that the inclusion of flying-fox information in the school syllabus, or even as extra information for students and parents16, can help counter misconceptions about the nature and impact of flying-foxes.

4.45 Many other submitters outlined the value and importance of pre-emptive or precautionary community education on the role of flying-foxes in the ecosystem, as well as the range of options that can be expected if camp management is required in their community.

16 Australasian Bat Society, Submission 61, p. 10; Banana Shire Council, Submission 39, p. [2].

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4.46 This community education should extend to the dissemination of information regarding the known human health risks associated with flying-foxes on humans. This includes an understanding of the likelihood of disease transmission and the preventative measures that should be taken. Additionally, communities should be informed of the importance of standard hygiene practices in alleviating the risk of infection from flying-fox droppings.

4.47 Accordingly, the Committee considers that the Department should develop, in consultation with state governments and the flying-fox expert community, a suite of education products that can be disseminated in affected (or potentially affected) communities, and included as part of the decision making tool referred to in Recommendation 3.

4.48 Ideally, these education resources should be able to be used nationally (acknowledging the differing ranges of some flying-foxes and state frameworks), and should be a priority consideration for any national coordination committee or working group established as a result of Recommendation 1.

Recommendation 4

4.49 The Committee recommends that the Department of the Environment and Energy, in consultation with other relevant organisations, develop a suite of education resources for Australian communities regarding flying-fox ecology, behaviour, environmental significance, health impacts, and management options. These resources should be promoted by the Australian Government to local councils, communities, businesses and all relevant stakeholders in affected jurisdictions and potentially affected jurisdictions.

Committee comments

4.50 The Committee recognises the importance of flying-foxes to the Australian environment and affirms their conservation, protection and recovery as a priority, in accordance with the EPBC Act. However, the Committee also recognises that those protections should be based on sound data and believes that the research goals set out above will help establish that.

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4.51 The Committee also recognises that flying-foxes can have significant impacts on communities when camps are within the vicinity of residents and businesses.

4.52 Evidence points to the fact that tensions will increase if traditional habitat and food sources are not restored and the pressures on flying-foxes and the changes in their behaviour are not better understood, by both the experts and the general community alike.

4.53 The Committee believes that the recommendations contained in this report will help to set a course for the relevant experts, government bodies and communities to better understand these important animals and our interactions with them, while setting goals to achieve while the relevant recovery plans are enacted toward their 10 year goals. The Committee is confident its recommendations will allow for evidence-based protection and management to coincide with better education and understanding of how humans and flying-foxes can co-exist most effectively.

Andrew Broad MP Chair 9 February 2017

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A. List of submissions

1 Miss Alina Tipper

2 Mrs Carole West

3 Mr Steve Amesbury

4 Mr Roger Terrey

5 Maitland City Council

6 Northern Beaches Council

7 Mr Allan Brown

8 Ms Patricia Gardiner

9 Mrs Lynne Amesbury

10 Royal Zoological Society of NSW

11 Environmental Defenders Office of Northern Queensland

12 Mr Charlie Schroeder

13 Mrs Rochelle Meyrick

14 Growcom

15 Mr Noel Castley-Wright

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16 Ku-ring-gai Council

17 South East Region Conservation Alliance (SERCA)

18 Ms Deborah Pergolotti

19 Ms Lucy Norman

20 Mrs Melissa Paice

21 Mrs Verity Davis-Raiss

22 Sutherland Shire Council

23 Local Government Association of Queensland

24 Kempsey Shire Council

25 Ms Isabelle Wentworth

26 Eurobodalla Shire Council

27 EDOs of Australia

28 Mrs Carole Rochester

29 Lake Macquarie City Council

30 Cessnock City Council

 30.1 Supplementary to submission 30

31 Hunter Joint Organisation of Councils

32 Ms Susan Jenvey

33 Mrs Jan Anderson

34 Mr Gus Araya

35 Mr Mathew Bell

36 Sydney Coastal Councils Group

LIST OF SUBMISSIONS 67

37 WWF-Australia

38 Ms Gail Vincent

39 Banana Shire Council

40 Mr John Shewan

41 Port Stephens Council

42 Singleton Council

43 Environment East Gippsland Inc

44 National Environmental Science Program

45 Moreton Bay Regional Council

46 Local Government NSW

47 Environment Institute of Australia and New Zealand - South East Queensland Division

48 Tamworth Regional Council

49 Ms Dominique Thiriet

50 Humane Society International

51 Dr Alison Peel

52 Ms Maureen Brannan

53 Ecosure

 53.1 Supplementary to submission 53

54 Sunshine Coast Council

55 Dr Jonathan Luly

56 Mrs Nancy Pallin

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57 Charmian Eckersley

58 Mr David Timbury

59 Rhian Williams

60 Noosa Council

61 Australasian Bat Society

62 Dr Peggy Eby

 62.1 Supplementary to submission 62

63 Department of the Environment and Energy

64 Wildlife SOS - Save Our Species

65 Natural Resources Adelaide and Mt Lofty Ranges

66 CSIRO

67 Department of Environment and Heritage Protection Queensland

68 Seascape Technology

 68.1 Supplementary to submission 68

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B. List of exhibits

1 Grey-headed Flying-fox relocation from the Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney, First Annual Report, September 2013, The Royal Botanic Gardens & Domain Trust

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C. Roundtable public hearing

Thursday, 24 November 2016—Canberra

Department of the Environment and Energy

 Mr Stephen Oxley, First Assistant Secretary, Wildlife, Heritage and Marine Division

 Mr James Tregurtha, First Assistant Secretary, Environment Standards Division

 Mr Geoff Richardson, Assistant Secretary, Protected Species and Communities Branch

 Ms Kim Farrant, Assistant Secretary, Assessments (NSW & ACT) and Fuel Branch

 Mr Gregory Andrews, Threatened Species Commissioner

CSIRO Land and Water

 Dr David Westcott, Senior Principal Research Scientist

Private Capacity

 Dr Peggy Eby, Consultant Wildlife Ecologist

Australasian Bat Society

 Dr Pia Lentini, Secretary

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Eurobodalla Shire Council

 Councillor Liz Innes, Mayor

 Mr Lindsay Usher, Director Planning and Sustainability Services

 Ms Deborah Lenson, Divisional Manager Environmental Services

Ecosure Pty Ltd

 Mr Phil Shaw, Managing Director

 Mrs Jessica Bracks, Principal Wildlife Biologist