FUNDING for nets to deter flying foxes and calling National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) staff to orchards as soon as the fruit bats appear could be the keys to protecting the livelihood of producers, according to member for Orange Andrew Gee.
Following a three-hour meeting in Orange on Wednesday with the NPWS, growers and NSW Farmers’ representatives, Mr Gee said the next step was to work with growers to attract funding for protective netting.
“Growers in the Sydney basin have been able to do that successfully, so it is certainly worth a try,” Mr Gee said.
NPWS staff began the meeting by explaining to growers their obligations under the law and the importance of contacting the NPWS quickly so they can inspect properties and authorse culling licences.
However, growers said they were hamstrung by the small numbers of bats (up to 25) they can cull with one licence which usually takes 48 hours to acquire.
“We empathise with them [growers] and we want to do what we can to help,” NPWS area manager Sarah Carr said.
“We did explain the options open to growers but they did already seem quite familiar with them.”
Mr Gee said it was vital NPWS are constantly kept in the loop by growers so they collect appropriate data and monitor the movements of the flying foxes.
“The sooner they can get on site the sooner they can start issuing licences,” Mr Gee said.
He remained confident the NPWS would do all it can under the legislation to help growers affected by flying foxes.
Gathering data about the numbers and species of flying foxes in the area was crucial for the NPWS to get an accurate picture of the problem.
Mr Gee said orchardists had identified the species of some of the flying foxes and it appeared most were little reds, but each species came under different protection legislation.
The NPWS are yet to confirm if the bats in the area are little reds - a species considered vital for pollination.
NSW Farmers president Fiona Simpson was unavailable for comment about the meeting.