BAT COLONY: The CQ township of Westwood has been invaded by thousands of fruit bats, which pose a risk to their drinking water.
BAT COLONY: The CQ township of Westwood has been invaded by thousands of fruit bats, which pose a risk to their drinking water. Contributed

CQ's bat chaos: Bottled water trucked in, Anzac Day on hold

BOTTLED water will be trucked out to Westwood and community events, including Anzac Day, are on hold until a huge flying fox colony can be moved on.

On February 5, Rockhampton Regional Council estimated there were about 45,000 bats roosting around the small town.

But numbers continued to rise and councillors were yesterday told there had been an "alarming increase" on Sunday when thousands of bats took up residence near the town's school.

Late yesterday, the school advised these numbers had decreased throughout the day.

With residents relying on tank water supplies, there were concerns among some residents about the safety of water.

To alleviate these concerns, the council will truck bottled water out to the town.

Officers presenting at the planning and regulatory committee meeting said council staff had spoken to nearby residents, who needed to be supported as much as possible.

Councillors were told it was time to act, but extreme heat and State Government legislation would make it "incredibly difficult" to move the animals from the area.

Conversation around the council table revealed the extent of issues surrounding the bat removal.

The council has started taking action within their power and have been in contact with the Department of Environment and Science as well as a specialist for further direction and advice.

Last week, the department said they were willing to find a solution and that the council could manage the roost in Urban Flying fox Management Areas in accordance with the department's code of practice.

They could also apply for a permit under state nature conservation laws for additional, non-lethal management.

Mayor Margaret Strelow criticised this response, saying because there were so many legislative issues it was "a way of saying no while they look like they're saying yes".

"Even though we have permission to go in and solve the State Government's problem at our expense there are so many complex rules," she said.

"We can't just go in and move them.

"None of our staff are deemed to be qualified; we have to engage quite expensive external support."

Councillors were told laws only allowed for bat dispersal two hours prior to daybreak.

With the extreme heat, the flying foxes are being described as very flighty, so officers could not be sure the animals would not return to the same spot later in the day.

Councillor Cherie Rutherford raised concerns about the cost of dispersal for the privately-owned community hall, which is also being plagued by the animals.

She said Anzac Day commemorations were on hold until the problem could be solved and the town's public toilets were closed.

Late yesterday, Education Queensland advised they were willing to pay for a contractor to conduct vegetation modification at an appropriate time.



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