CENTRAL West orchardists have joined forces with orchardists from throughout NSW to push for a netting subsidy program to stop flying foxes decimating their crops.
On Friday Member for Orange Andrew Gee said he hoped the petition, which has also been launched by a number of other National Party MPs across the state, would collect 10,000 signatures and prompt a debate in NSW Parliament.
Orchardist Peter West said while there hadn’t been as many flying foxes, or fruit bats, in the Orange area in the past 12 months, it doesn’t mean they won’t return.
“A couple of orchards got damage this year, but not like in previous years,” he said.
“They’re starting to be a lot more common in inland areas.”
Mr West said flying foxes caused around $50,000 damage to his Fuji apple crop about five years ago, and he believes it’s only a matter of time before they return in the same numbers as before.
Mr Gee said the flying foxes impacted regional communities in different ways.
“Here in Orange the bats infest orchards causing hundreds of thousands of dollars of damage,” he said.
“Our orchardists do it tough enough without having to deal with this burden.”
Mr Gee said the long-term solution to the flying fox problem was netting, and orchardists should be able to take advantage of the newer, less expensive netting that is now available.
“We need to make a decision about whether we want a viable apple and cherry industry in Orange or not,” Mr Gee said.
“If we do, then we need to support it, because it’s disappearing before our eyes. That’s the cold, hard truth.”
Mr Gee said he was working with orchardists and NSW Farmers’ representatives to find a solution that works for everyone.
“I’ve raised the issue with the minister for the environment, and I’ve been very encouraged by his response and willingness to find a solution,” he said.
The petition is available at Mr Gee’s electorate office at 123 Byng Street or at local rural supply centres.