CQ township going batty with water contamination fears

THE CQ township of Westwood faces a potential drinking water contamination crisis with the recent arrival of a massive flying fox colony to the area.

Located 50km south west of Rockhampton and boasting a population of 174 people, the small township of Westwood relies on collecting rain water in their water tanks.

Their water supply is now in jeopardy thanks to the faecal bombardment of thousands of bats on their roofs.

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

Local resident Tracie Barney said it was less than a week ago that the estimated one million flying foxes had made a hundred meter section of trees along the Capricorn Highway opposite her house, their roosting site.

"They've only been here the last four or five days but overnight they've been doubling and tripling in numbers," Ms Barney said.

"They're a massive big colony, no one has any idea why they are there.

"I can count 12 trees caked in them, you can hardly see any branches."

 

BAT COLONY: An estimated million bats have taken up residence in the CQ township of Westwood.
BAT COLONY: An estimated million bats have taken up residence in the CQ township of Westwood. Contributed

Ms Barney said there has been bats in the area but never on the present scale where they were making life extremely difficult for residents.

"Everyone out here is on tank water and if they are dropping their faeces on our roof, where's it going?" she said.

"It's hitting our tanks and we won't be able to drink the water.

"I've got a seven-month-old baby, I'm not going to even boil the water to feed to her in her bottle, that's how bad they are. "

 

Westwood resident Tracie Barney is extremely concerned about the quality of drinking water in her rain water tank since a colony of fruit bats took up residence across the road from her property.
Westwood resident Tracie Barney is extremely concerned about the quality of drinking water in her rain water tank since a colony of fruit bats took up residence across the road from her property. Contributed

Ms Barney said her family and other Westwood residents all had the "same fear" and had no choice but to drink bottled water.

She said it was all but impossible to be outside in the late afternoon when the bats were flying off for their evening feeding.

"They start flying off at 4pm, that's when we all have to have our washing in, they are thick and god knows what's going to fall on us, it's just disgusting" Ms Barney said.

She also expressed concerns about the threat of contracting Australian Bat Lyssavirus, a virus known to be transmitted from bats to humans, often causing serious illness.

 

Flying foxes have taken over the trees in the CQ town of Westwood.
Flying foxes have taken over the trees in the CQ town of Westwood. Mike Richards GLA061017BATS

Ms Barney wasn't sure what could be done to move the bats on given they were a protected species.

"Most of the town's reported it to the [Rockhampton Regional] council but they really don't want anything to do with it apparently," she said.

She said when the people in charge of the local hall and public toilets spoke with RRC, they were told if they wanted council to remove them, they'd be forced to pay for it.

"The council has said if you want to get them removed, you'll have to pay to have them removed," she said.

Late yesterday, Rockhampton Regional Council spokesperson said they were well aware of the issue at Westwood and were actively monitoring the flying fox population in the area.

"Removal of a flying fox colony is a long, drawn-out and expensive operation through State processes and may not be allowed at all depending on the circumstances," they said.

"The colony is currently located on a mix of State Government and private land and while it is the responsibility of the State Government, we understand the impact this is having on the local community.

"We are currently looking at options at how we can best help the community and if residents wish to raise their concerns to the State Department of Environment and Science, council is happy to support them in doing so."

The Morning Bulletin will today seek a response from the relevant state department.

 

BAT COLONY: This colony poses a public health risk for Westwood residents.
BAT COLONY: This colony poses a public health risk for Westwood residents. Contributed


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