Podcast 19 – Eurobodalla Youth Forum

Some school holiday listening this time around.

During Local Government Week recently, Eurobodalla Shire Council made space for the youth of the shire.

Senior students from Carroll College and St Peter’s Anglican College at Broulee, and Batemans Bay High School were given time to address Council – including Mayor, Liz Innes and Deputy Mayor, Anthony Mayne.

One of the Shire’s Federal MP’s was also taking notes – Member for Gilmore, Anne Sudmalis.

Courtney Fryer from Carroll College used the opportunity to advocate for young people living with physical and mental disability.

Harrison O’Keefe from Batemans Bay High, made a great point around youth engagement –“show them what they are missing out on” and he has an idea to do just that.

While Pippi Sparrius from St Peter’s presented some surprising stats around teenage pregnancy in the Eurobodalla.

Keen to give the students a ‘real council meeting’ experience, Cr Innes was watching the clock, with Courtney, Harrison, and Pippi all given five minutes each.

Click play to listen here and now…

Or listen and subscribe via AudioBoom, Bitesz.com, or Apple Podcasts/iTunes.

For support or more info about the issues raised in this podcast check in with the Eurobodalla youth services directory or drop by one of the Shire’s popular youth cafes in Narooma and Batemans Bay.

About Regional is supported by the financial contributions of members, including Jill Howell, Max Wilson, Sue MacKinnon, Geoff Berry, and Four Winds at Bermagui – who have just released the program for next Easter’s festival, 60 artists, 10 ensembles, 26 performances, 10 stunning locations, over 5 days starting in late March 2018. Early bird tickets are on sale now.

Thanks for tuning in, see you out and about in South East NSW.
Cheers
Ian

Making an informed choice for Snowy Monaro Regional Council this Saturday

Election Day is Sept 9. Source: AEC
Election Day for Snowy Monaro Regional Council is this Saturday – September 9.  Photo credit: AEC

A new era in Local Government is set to bloom with elections for Snowy Monaro Regional Council this Saturday (September 9) ending 16 months of administration by former Cooma Mayor, Dean Lynch.

Pre-Poll voting is already underway at Jindabyne, Berridale, Cooma, and Bombala with 27 candidates contesting 11 positions in the merged council chamber.

Familiar names on your ballot paper include Bob Stewart, Winston Phillips, Sue Haslingden, John Shumack, and Roger Norton.

But there is some new interest including solicitor and tourism operator Maria Linkenbagh, Nimmitabel grazier John Harrington, and 23-year-old apprentice carpenter James ‘Boo’ Ewart.

You can explore the full list of local candidates through the NSW Electoral Commission website.

Former Deputy Mayor of Cooma-Monaro Shire Council, and now Member of the NSW Upper House, Bronnie Taylor says a mix of old and new will be important for the new council.

“Yes we need experience but this is an opportunity to get some really great new people on council and I really encourage people to look at that,” Mrs Taylor says.

With just days to go until polling day the attention and interest of voters will start to sharpen.

Voting instructions on each ballot paper will guide locals, but generally speaking, each voter will be asked to select six candidates in order of preference, you can select more if you wish and perhaps push out to 11 to reflect the full council you want to be elected. But for your vote to count, you must at least number six boxes in order of preference.

The inaugural mayor will be elected by councilors at their first meeting after the election.

Mrs Taylor admits the process and choices can be overwhelming but she is calling on locals to take an interest and use the days ahead to find their new councilors.

“Vote for who you think is going to make a difference…vote for someone who has the same values and aspirations for your community,” she says.

Despite being part of the State Government that drove the merger of Bombala, Snowy River and Cooma-Monaro Councils, The Nationals MLC accepts that the process could have been better but has confidence in the future of the 11 member Snowy Monaro Regional Council.

Mrs Taylor is adamant small communities won’t be forgotten in the new larger entity.

“The councilors that get elected, they’re good people, they care about their communities [but they also] care about their region,” she says.

The former Deputy Mayor points to the $5.3 million State investment in the Lake Wallace Dam project at Nimmitabel as an example of that ‘bigger regional thinking’.

“I am someone who lives in the town of Nimmitabel which has a population of around 300 people,” Mrs Taylor says.

“We had a really shocking time during the drought.

The Jindabyne Chamber of Commerce will host a 'meet the candidates' forum on September 4.
The Jindabyne Chamber of Commerce will host a ‘meet the candidates’ forum on September 4.

“There was not one other councilor from Nimmitabel or from down this end of the shire [on that council except me but] every single one of those nine councilors on Cooma-Monaro Shire Council voted to invest that money.

“They knew it was really important for that community (Nimmitabel) and that that community was part of them,” Mrs Taylor says.

Given the size of the field to choose from and the need to at least number six boxes on the ballot paper, voters can be forgiven for feeling confused or unsure of who to vote for.

“I think people that get up there and promise 16 different things aren’t very realistic,” Mrs Taylor says.

“You have to have someone who is prepared to work with other people and prepared to see other points of view.

“At the end of the day…you have got to find compromises and ways through to get good results,” the former Deputy Mayor suggests.

Working out who those people are or finding the information you need to have an informed vote can be a challenge in amongst the posters, Facebook pages, and how to vote cards of an election campaign.

“I think candidate forums are really good,” Mrs Taylor says.

“And the great thing about local government is that you can pick up the phone and ring them (candidates) and ask them what they think about something and they should be able to give you some time to do that.”

Mrs Taylor also suggests talking to other people in the community as a way of making your vote count.

“Talk to the people that you trust, they know the pulse of the community, I think that’s really valuable,” she says.

Contact phone numbers and email addresses for many of the candidates can be found on the NSW Electoral Commission website.

Polling booths are open between 8am and 6pm this Saturday (September 9), voting is compulsory at one of 13 South East locations from Adaminaby to Delegate to Bredbo.

 

*For more coverage of the Snowy Monaro Regional Council election, including comment from former Snowy River Councilor Leanne Atkinson, click HERE.

*This story was made possible thanks to the contribution of About Regional members Julie Klugman, Nigel Catchlove, Jenny Anderson, and Ali Oakley. 

 

 

 

Calling candidates for Snowy Monaro Regional Council

Dean Lynch, Administrator of Snowy Monaro Regional Council
Dean Lynch, Administrator of Snowy Monaro Regional Council. Source: SMRC

The wheels of democracy are starting to spin again across the High Country with nominations now open for candidates at the September 9 Local Council Election.

Eleven councilors will sit in the chamber of the merged Snowy Monaro Regional Council, which has been run for the past 15 months by former Cooma Mayor, Dean Lynch.

In his role as Administrator, Mr Lynch called on the advice and input of Local Representative Committees covering the former shires of Snowy River, Cooma-Monaro, and Bombala.

Ultimately though final decisions fell to Mr Lynch, an arrangement put in place by the NSW Government and one many have described as undemocratic.

Mr Lynch, who says he won’t be standing on September 9 says he understands the criticism but has enjoyed the opportunity despite feeling burnt out.

He says the whole merger process has got people thinking more about local government and perhaps has inspired some locals to stand for election.

“I think there’s going to be a lot of new faces,” Mr Lynch says.

Nominations opened on Monday and will close at Midday on Wednesday, August 9 through the Electoral Commission on NSW.

In the lead-up, Snowy Monaro Regional Council held candidate info sessions in Jindabyne, Berridale, Cooma, and Bombala.

Leanne Atkinson sat on Snowy River Shire Council between 1999 and 2003 and has stood as a Labor candidate for the NSW Parliament in the seat of Bega a number of times since, she says it can feel like a ‘leap of faith’ when you first put your name forward for election.

“You really aren’t sure what you are doing at the beginning,” Ms Atkinson told About Regional.

“You need to get the message out about yourself and what differentiates you from other people.”

Ms Atkinson says she went into her first campaign with issues she felt connected to and could speak on.

“I was a young mum, and was very aware of the constraints there were for families in the area and what services were available for them,” she says.

“That was how I went into that first campaign, looking at services for families, for young people, ” she says.

Ms Atkinson says she never considered standing for council until a couple of people suggested it to her.

“I said I can’t see myself doing this, there are all those people sitting around that table, all that procedure, I couldn’t do that.

“The funny thing is that once you are elected you realise that you absolutely can be at that table,” Ms Atkinson says.

And once you are elected what is the job of a new councilor on Snowy Monaro Regional Council?

Ms Atkinson believes the role goes beyond the popular catchphrase of ‘roads, rubbish, and rates’.

“There are a lot of demands on Council, and the role a Councilor is to have a strategic view, to set the tone, and to set the direction,” she says.

“It’s really important to engage effectively with the community.”

Election Day is Sept 9. Source: AEC
Election Day is Sept 9. Source: AEC

The merger process, taking three council areas into one has left smaller communities concerned that they will be over looked by the big new entity shaped by the Baird – Berejiklian Government.

Leanne Atkinson believes it’s incumbent on the eleven new councilors to think beyond their own home town.

“Don’t focus just on the big towns, there are little communities where those people matter and are just as important as the people in the bigger towns,” she says.

“You have to be aware that you are there for the whole community.”

But there is some strategic advice from this Labor stalwart for smaller centres keen to see one of their own elected.

“I have a view that the amalgamations shouldn’t have been forced, but the fact is it’s amalgamated,” Ms Atkinson says.

“The community needs people who are going to move the shire forward in it’s new form.

“Maybe some smaller communities should get together and ask, who is the one person who could represent us well?” she says.

Find a candidate and get the community behind them seems to be the advice.

“I lived in Berridale for a while, and if it was me in a community like that, I’d be pulling people together and saying, okay we want representation on this council, who can we advocate for and increase our chances of getting someone elected,” Ms Atkinson suggests.

Reflecting on her council time, Ms Atkinson says it was one of the best experiences of her life, she is keen to see a diverse range of candidates stand for election on September 9.

“There were lots of little things that I would look at and think, we can do better than that.”

“If you are willing to work you’d be surprised at how much you can achieve,” Ms Atkinson says.

Thanks to About Regional Members, Simon Marnie, Alison Oakley, Linda Albertson, and Kiah Wilderness Tours for supporting local story telling.

Eurobodalla Citizens Jury – $100,000, 86 recommendations. Worthwhile?

Is Council spending your money on the right things? If not, what should it change?

That was the question put to the Eurobodalla Citizens Jury, a group of 28 randomly selected residents.

Starting in June 2016, the Citizens Jury reported back to Council in December making a wide range of recommendations from business development to land use to the role of the arts in the community, including:

  • Ensure that the potential for a performing arts base is considered in the redevelopment of the MacKay Park precinct.
  • Investigate revenue opportunities through use of waste facilities to generate income and or energy source, e.g. incorporating methane collection; recycling of plastics into a viable resource.
  • Continue and further develop collaboration with Aboriginal people and use of traditional land care techniques.
  •  Council recognise that the Jury supports the consistent application of the LEP and other environmental strategies and plans, such that green belts and riparian zones are protected.

The Citizens Jury project cost around $100 000 but was it worth it?

Yes, but it was not without its problems, according to Moruya juror Kate Raymond.

“The Citizens Jury was definitely worthwhile, it gave us all a good sense of what Council did and what kind of decisions had to be made every day,” Kate says.

However, the Jury struggled with the complexity of the task and was heavily reliant on Council staff to provide them with information.

“We came to realise that the question was just too broad, and we really couldn’t answer it,” Kate explains.

“How are we supposed to know if Council is spending enough money on roads, rates, and rubbish? What do we have to measure it against?

“We were briefed, but we only got Council’s perspective, and they said, ‘We’re doing the best we can with the money we have’. We had to take their word for it,” Kate says.

The Jury members also struggled to achieve consensus on issues.

“Even if some of us thought Council was spending too much on something, we’d never be able to reach consensus on it because it’s a group of 28 people with different priorities,” Kate says.

“For instance, some people wanted much more paving and guttering in the Shire but others disagreed because they thought it was less important for a rural shire. That’s just one example!”

It’s a point Deputy Mayor Anthony Mayne isn’t surprised to hear.

“By definition, a jury is a group of people who consider information and then reach a binding decision about it,” Cr Mayne says.

“Although the Jury deeply engaged with the issues presented to them, they weren’t expected to come to a unanimous agreement about them.

“To call it a ‘Jury’ does little to advance or promote the positive benefits of this project,” he says

Kate Raymond also believes the jury struggled to understand the role of Council.

“There were some jurors with quite extreme views about what Council does [views that] were simply outside what we were meant to be talking about,” she says

“I think the New Democracy Foundation (the Jury facilitators) did a really good job though.”

“Overall, I still think it was worthwhile,” Kate says.

Critic of the Citizens Jury project, Paul Bradstreet, took a keen interest in the process and observed a couple of Jury meetings.

Paul represents the Eurobodalla Ratepayers Association (ERA).

Not a juror himself, he argues that the Jury wasn’t able to consider new ideas for the Shire.

“The Shire needs new ideas, but Council remains stuck in the same old patterns because it’s easier than dealing with new things,” he says.

According to Paul, citizens with innovative ideas were directed to make a submission to the Jury, but the Jury couldn’t consider them.

“For instance, the Eurobodalla Ratepayers Association had ideas that we wanted to put to Council, especially following the [Council] elections in September,” Paul says.

“The ERA had a couple of councilors elected on our platform issues, so we know our ideas are relevant, but we weren’t being given a chance to express them.

“The Citizens Jury was set up as a public relations, rubber stamping exercise, where Council gets to hear that they’re doing a great job,”  Paul says.

Eurobodalla Shire Council says that new ideas and submissions from the public were included in the Jury project.

A Council spokesperson says, there were 39 submissions from the community, and the Jury considered all of them carefully.

“Although the Jury project was primarily set up to look at how Council currently spends its money, it did consider new ideas, for instance, a community ‘think tank’ activity to run as part of Local Government Week and investigating a mobile library service,” the spokesperson explains.

Kate Raymond agrees that the Jury considered new ideas, but was somewhat ambivalent about Council’s response,

“For instance, our report recommended (p.9) having an agricultural officer in Council, to supercharge the outcomes from the Rural Lands Strategy,” Kate says.

Council’s response was, ‘We will look into this’ and if there is grant funding available (p.32) they’ve told us they will investigate options.

“Does this mean Council is actively looking for grant funding for this position? What does investigating options mean? That’s unclear,” Kate says.

Council’s spokesperson says the Citizens Jury worked well and achieved the goal of providing feedback on how Council spends its money.

The jury made 86 recommendations, 76 of which align with the Draft Delivery Program 2017-21 and the Operational Plan 2017-18. These two documents inform upcoming Council spending in the immediate future,” the spokesperson says.

“We [Council] also realised that there’s quite a lot of confusion in the community about the three tiers of government (local, state and federal) and their respective roles. So we’re working at getting some information about this out there.”

Eurobodalla Deputy Mayor, Anthony Mayne. Source: Facebook
Eurobodalla Deputy Mayor, Anthony Mayne. Source: Facebook

The Deputy Mayor believes it was a worthwhile process.

“In the modern world of social media, to see 28 people deeply engaged and enquiring of any number of issues over a sustained period of time is to be applauded,” Cr Mayne says.

“These were volunteers, paid a small allowance to give up seven nights and many hours of reading over several months to listen, wonder, seek, exchange, explore and debate a variety of matters before finally presenting their outcomes to the Councillors”.

So, will the Eurobodalla see another Citizens Jury?

“Council has developed a Community Engagement Framework and the Citizens Jury will remain something we can use when appropriate,” Council’s spokesperson explains.

“The jurors provided significant amounts of their own time and Council is appreciative of that.”

Words by Fiona Whitelaw, Moruya

*Fiona contacted a number of other jurors for this article but Kate Raymond was the only one to take up the opportunity.

*Featured videos produced by Eurobodalla Shire Council before and during the Jury process.

Tathra Wharf recycled into a new future following monster seas

The sun rises on Tathra Wharf, photo from The Wharf Locavore
The sun rises on Tathra Wharf, photo from The Wharf Locavore

The record-breaking seas that slammed into the much loved Tathra Wharf in June 2016 have opened a new chapter in the history of this 150-year-old structure.

The timber that was salvaged from the wrecked sections of decking and pylons has been snapped up with a sense of reverence. A host of upcycled projects has been born spreading the affection for this Far South Coast icon.

Over the weekend of June 4 and 5 2016 waves of up to 17 meters high or more shattered timber and fixtures that had stood the test of time.

Protected from the more frequent rough weather of the south, the wharf was at the mercy of this north-easterly inspired weather event.

On the Monday morning that followed Bega Valley Shire Council confirmed that the timber ramp that leads from the roadway down to the old cargo platform had been lifted off its pylons by the monster seas.

A repair job estimated to be worth half a million dollars was launched, recognising the importance of this pinkish structure to the region’s tourist appeal and sense of identity.

Click on each photo to get a bigger view…

Any timber that could be repurposed at the wharf was, with poor decking in undamaged sections replaced with suitable timber from the damaged sections.

Some of the larger scale timbers salvaged remain in the Bega Valley Shire Council stockpile, ready for maintenance works on the 70 timber bridges that dot the shire.

The remaining timber was offered to the volunteers at the Tathra Wharf Museum.

Museum Secretary, Michelle Russell says the organisation has been able to sell some of the leftover timber as a fundraiser with some pieces seen as being sculpturally interesting.

“A lot of the timber has been sold to woodworkers,” she says.

Michelle has been surprised at the interest after first thinking the timber would be sold as firewood for winter.

“It’s a bit of history and that seems to be what people want,” she says.

Most of the load has been sold off, earning around $1500 for the museum. Some pieces have been kept as museum exhibits while others will end up keeping local homes warm during the months ahead.

Anthony Little, owner of Fat Tony’s Resturant on the hill above the wharf was one of those to snap up a chunk of Tathra Wharf.

“I remember climbing on the frame of the wharf as a kid and running down to see sharks pulled in by fisherman,” Ant says.

Three obscure hunks of rusted timber now sit in the front yard of Ant’s eatery, which was the former residence of the Tathra Harbourmaster; the last ship to take cargo from the wharf was the SS Cobargo in 1954.

“I’ll be putting up some display boards and mounting each piece properly to highlight the connection between this place [the harbourmaster’s residence] and the wharf,” Ant says.

Craftsman like Greg Wall and Peter Hull have given the salvaged timber a new use altogether.

“Some of this timber has seen 150 years of traffic, it’s too good for firewood,” Greg says.

The woodworker from Black Range has turned a mix old stringy bark, iron bark, and gray box into a mortise and tenon joint bookcase for the wharf museum.

“I wanted to construct the bookcase using the skills of the time, the skills of 150 years ago when the wharf was built,” Greg explains.

Tarraganda joiner, Peter Hull says it’s been a thrill working with such significant timber and turning it into vanity benchtops and mantle pieces.

“My clients have loved being able to share the story behind their new feature,” Peter says.

Click on each photo to get a bigger view…

Apart from using its stockpiled timber in bridge structures, Bega Valley Shire Council plans on using some of its Tathra Wharf stash to make street furniture and gateway signage at the northern, southern, and western entries to the shire.

Some of the turpentine has already found bums in need of a seat in the Merimbula CBD and on the very structure it came from.

On her sunny verandah in Jellat, Museum Secretary, Michelle Russell is just happy to have a few lumps of the wharf to sit pot plants on.

“I have a family connection, Daniel Gowing was one of the first people involved in constructing the wharf,” Michelle says.

“I would like to thank Council for giving us [the museum] the timber because it’s been a great fundraiser,” she says.

“We haven’t decided what we are doing with the money yet, but we have a few projects in mind.”

Click on each photo to get a bigger view…

Apart from the acute damage that resulted from the East Coast Low of June last year, further assessments uncovered defects in 22 of the wharf’s 78 pylons. More work is needed to secure the structure’s long-term future especially in the face of increasingly testy seas.

Bega Valley Shire Council and the NSW Government are considering their options.

“We figure it’s been there a long time and will continue there for a long time yet,” Michelle Russell says.

“Mostly because the community considers it to be so important, it’ll be there in another 150 years I am sure.”

For those who don’t have a piece of Tathra Wharf as their own yet, small chunks are available for purchase from the Tathra Wharf Museum, which is open 10am to 4pm Saturday and Sunday.

 

 

Disclaimer – author is part time media officer for Bega Valley Shire Council.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About Regional – the podcast, episode seven, February 7 2017

About Regional – a new place for the stories of South East NSW, in episode 7…

Dean Lynch
Dean Lynch

* Local Government across NSW is in limbo again as Gladys Berejiklian takes over from Mike Baird as Premier.

A sense that they might be in trouble at the next election has the new look Government reviewing and reconsidering some its past decisions.

Council amalgamations are at the top of the list.

Here in South East NSW, the Snowy Monaro Regional Council has been operating since May 2016 – Bombala, Snowy River and Cooma-Monaro Shires weren’t forced to merge but not given much of choice either.

Until elections are held one man is in charge, former Cooma Mayor Dean Lynch. He says the recent talk from Macquarie Street has been destabilising and has complicated the process underway through the High Country.

Neville and Dianne Baker
Neville and Dianne Baker

*Catalina’s Neville Baker is a breast cancer survivor.

Recent numbers suggest there are about 120 men diagnosed with breast cancer in Australia every year.

Neville’s diagnosis came at Christmas time in 2003. It was a rocky road from there, aside from the treatment many in Neville’s circle simply didn’t know how to handle a man with breast cancer.

I meet Neville over a coffee and cake at his home in Catalina, just south of Batemans Bay.

Lindy Hume
Lindy Hume

*The rich artistic community of South East NSW has inspired a discussion paper that calls for greater recognition and funding for regional artists.

Lindy Hume is the current artistic director of Opera Queensland as well as being the former chief of the Sydney Festival and Chair of South East Arts, among many other things.

Lindy’s platform paper for Currency House describes regional arts as a ‘restless giant’.

The paper was launched in the middle of one this region’s most dynamic communities – Candelo.

Thanks for tuning in, feedback, story ideas and advertising enquiries to hello@aboutregional.com.au

Listening options…

Click to stream via Audioboom

Click to subscribe and listen via iTunes

Click to stream via Bitesz.com

About Regional – the podcast, episode two, October 18 2016

About Regional – the podcast, episode two, October 18 2016

About Regional strives to capture the colour, wisdom, and issues of South East NSW, in episode two of the podcast…

Bega Valley election material
Bega Valley election material

* Long time Eurobodalla Council watcher Keith Dance wants to change the way Local Government is elected in NSW.

Having served two terms on Council and contested every election between 2000 and 2010, Keith believes the system encourages too many candidates to stand, which makes it impossible for voters to make an informed choice.

Keith reckons part of the solution comes from Victoria.

John Alcock and Howard Charles
John Alcock and Howard Charles

* The small Monaro town of Nimmitabel, south-east of Cooma is heading into summer with more water security than every before. A new dam has just opened on the outskirts of town.

Howard Charles and John Alcock are two of the fathers of the Lake Wallace Dam, both were keen to jump the fence and show me around.

* The Archibald Prize has just wrapped up for another year at the Art Gallery of NSW in Sydney.

But these famous faces aren’t being put away, they are hitting the road for a tour of regional NSW and Victoria – including the Bega Valley Regional Gallery.

Gallery Director, Iain Dawson gives us a preview.

And a bush dance to finish with, the Kameruka Bush Orchestra in full flight.

Listening and streaming options:

Click here to listen via AudioBoom

Click here to listen via Stitcher

Coming soon to iTunes!

Flying-fox dilemma deepens ahead of Batemans Bay community meeting

The challenges around the flying-fox camp at Batemans Bay continue to deepen with Eurobodalla Shire Council accepting the problem has grown too big and residents increasingly distressed.

Calls for a dispersal program to break up the camp and move the protected species on have reached State and Federal Parliament with the Environment Minister at both levels consulted.

The scientist and planner behind the Eurobodalla’s current course of action has warned of legal risks around such a plan, despite dispersal success at a Sydney site she was responsible for.

Beth Medway from Eco Logical Australia helped develop the flying-fox management plan for Eurobodalla Shire Council and Sutherland Shire Council.

Ms Medway says any formal agreement around dispersal of the Grey-headed Flying-fox with the NSW Office of Environment would involve Council agreeing to accept liability.

“If the bats move to another place and cause a problem, whoever undertook the original dispersal would have to address the dispersal in the other locations, that’s part of the typical conditions,” Ms Medway says.

Given the nature of flying-foxes movements, proving the origins of a camp can be difficult, but none the less Ms Medway suggests liability needs to be a factor in considering a dispersal program.

Click play to learn more –

It’s another dynamic in this fractured and complicated stand off between the natural and human environments.

Dispersal worked in Sutherland…

To date the strategy from Eurobodalla Shire Council  has centered around actively managing vegetation at the camp which is based at the Batemans Bay Water Gardens.

Since 2015 a buffer between the camp and surrounding homes has been created and the flying-foxes favourite palm trees have been removed but the camp has continued to grow. The number of animals is estimated to be around 100,000, which accounts for 20% of the national population.

The increasing anxiety and pressures human residents have been feeling are significant. Locals talk about feeling sick with the smell, contaminated tank water, property stained and damaged by droppings and sleep interrupted by screeching.

Eurobodalla Mayor Lindsay Brown told Radio 2EC this week that residents are at the end of their tether.

More dramatic action is now being called for along the lines adopted by Sutherland Shire Council where a dispersal program began in August last year at the Kareela Camp.

Mayor Brown says dispersal was investigated for the Water Gardens before now with the cost at the time put at between $500,000 and one million dollars.

“Today we have four or five times as many flying foxes in Batemans Bay,” Cr Brown says.

The Shire’s State MP Andrew Constance has suggested the Baird Government would help cover the cost as they did in Sutherland Shire.

Beth Medway warns against comparing the Water Gardens and Kareela Camps.

“Overall the numbers of flying foxes at that (Kareela) site have dramatically reduced,” Ms Medway says.

However she says the geography and situation is very different to the Water Gardens.

“Kareela is a very small area of bush land in a gully, compared to the Water Gardens which is much, much bigger with a big body of water in the middle,” she says.

“It is doable (at the Water Gardens) but the resourcing involved would be significant,”

“At Kareela we had 10 Council and consulting staff involved in the dispersal on any one day,”

Ms Medway suggests the number of people needed for a similar course of action at Batemans Bay potentially makes it not viable.

Click play to learn more –

Given what is trying to be achieved, dispersal methods are disruptive – equally so to residents within 150 to 300 meters of the camp. At Kareela loud music, smoke and bright flashing lights were all used in a  pre-dawn effort.

“Occasionally they do came back and there is further dispersal action that is needed,” Ms Medway says.

Nine months on and $250,000 later Council staff are still involved at Kareela four to seven days a week monitoring the site, which a Sutherland Shire spokesperson says will be the case for the next 3 years at least.

“It’s not a case of just anybody going along and flashing lights,” Ms Medway explains.

The guidelines from the NSW Office of Environment point to the need for a dispersal team that consists of trained, inducted and vaccinated personnel, along with the presence of a qualified flying fox expert and licensed wildlife carer.

Odds are dispersal won’t work…

The success at Kareela stands in contrast to the current scientific advice and the experience other communities have had with dispersal.

Based on research quoted by Eurobodalla Shire Council, in 16 of the 17 dispersals studied flying-foxes stayed in the local area, normally moving only 600 metres from the original camp.

“We just never know where the flying-foxes could end up,” Ms Medway says.

“There have been cases where dispersals have caused a bigger problem than where they (flying-foxes) were originally located,”

“When we did the consultation for the Water Gardens, a lot of people from the community were very concerned about the potential of moving the camp into an even less desirable location, where more people would be impacted,” she says.

A spokesperson for Eurobodalla Shire says 10 sites have been identified in the Batemans Bay urban area where the flying-foxes could relocate to following dispersal.

In this challenging and difficult situation the humans living in the midst of the Water Gardens Camp have often felt that concern for the endangered Grey-headed Flying-fox seems to be greater than the concern expressed for them and their situation.

Ms Medway says she feels for residents around the Water Gardens and is confident that with time the flying-foxes will move away and locals will have relief.

“In Sydney at the moment camps are empty and it’s not about dispersals, it’s because food is not available,” she says.

Click play to learn more – 

Until the flying-foxes move on Ms Medway encourages residents to make the most of the relief options Council has available, including clothes line and car covers and access to high pressure water cleaners.

Why the Water Gardens?…

Flowering spotted gums and fruiting rain forest species along the South Coast are thought to be the main drivers behind the Water Gardens Camp.

The water in the gardens itself is another plus for flying-foxes who struggle on days of high temperatures. The cooler environment is key for the species survival, with the potential for mass deaths on days where the temperature hits the high thirties.

Speaking on ABC South East this week the author of the Australian Government’s 2009 National Recovery Plan for the Grey- headed Flying-fox, suggested that the problem in Batemans Bay and in a number of communities around Australia is one that has come home to roost.

Ecologist Dr Peggy Eby pointed to the wide spread clearing of flying-fox habitat as being central to this problem, with the animals forced into marginal areas like the Water Gardens to survive.

In terms of a resolution Dr Eby believes dispersal is a high risk strategy.

“The reality is it’s much easier to adapt the behaviour of humans than the behaviour of wildlife,” she told the ABC.

The next step…

Eurobodalla Shire Council has called a community meeting on the issue and is inviting mayors from other affected communities  around the country. That meeting will happen on May 16 between 5pm and 7pm at the Batemans Bay Soldiers Club.

An opportunity perhaps for the Batemans Bay community and Eurobodalla Shire Council to drive solutions and ideas that move this forward for people and flying-foxes.