OUR SAY: Under the gun over flying foxes

FARMERS will always be at the mercy of nature, whether it’s drought or flying foxes destroying crops.

It may be a cliche, but in both cases a long-term solution is the answer not a short-term fix.

In this instance, permits to shoot flying foxes may provide short-term relief when they force the colonies to move off orchards and kill the animals causing the problem

But as Orange orchardist Peter Darley has noticed the persistent creatures, looking for something to eat while native pollen and nectar is scarce during dry times, are quick to return after being warned off with guns.

Although National Parks and Wildlife Service staff may respond as quickly as they are notified of a flying fox invasion, by the time a ranger arrives and a shooting permit is issued most of the damage has been done. 

The state government is phasing out shooting permits, and with only two applications from Orange orchardists since January 1, producers appear to be adapting. By July this year, permits will only be available in special circumstances.

The government justifies the decision by talking up its program of subsidising half the costs of flying-fox netting.

But the scheme is cold comfort for central west growers with only the Sydney basin and the central coast covered.

The environment department still describes the appearance of flying-fox colonies in Orange as an “unusual event” while the two regions covered by the scheme have had more regular bat damage.

But surely having a crop destroyed is a blow to any grower, no matter where they are, and as bats have been seen in the central west for the past three seasons it would suggest the “unusual event” is becoming far too common.

With the expense of full exclusion netting, using poles and tensioned cables, remaining a deterrent, funding to expand the subsidy scheme is urgently needed.

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