THE activism of a passionate group of orchardists has finally paid dividends with growers in the Orange region now able to access funding from the state government’s $4 million flying fox netting program.
The assistance had previously only been available to growers in the Sydney basin and Central Coast regions, however it’s now been extended to all NSW growers who are experiencing damage from flying foxes (or fruit bats).
The funding is available for throw netting as well as fully-secured netting.
Orchardist Guy Gaeta said he would probably spend close to $100,000 on netting to cover his land at a cost of around $10,000 per hectare.
“It’s worth the money, when your apples and your cherries are getting destroyed in front of your face, it’s worth it,” Mr Gaeta said.
Orchardist David Gartrell said there are approximately 30 fruit growers in the area who may look at buying the netting which would not only protect fruit from bats, but would also prevent hail damage.
“It [the nets] eliminates another risk in the production process,” Mr Gartrell said.
Member for Orange Andrew Gee said the growers needed to be given credit for the program’s extension.
“They wanted a solution before the next harvest,” Mr Gee said.
“This is good news and something local orchardists have been fighting for a long time, and they’ve been very professional in the way they’ve gone about their lobbying.”
Mr Gee said there was now light at the end of the tunnel with many orchardists relieved they no longer have to shoot the bats.
He said most orchardists don’t have the capital to spend millions of dollars on netting, but this program would significantly reduce the cost of the netting and he urged them to apply for the assistance before the funds run out.
“They’d better get in quick,” he said.
Mr Gee said bats impact on regional communities in different ways.
“Here in Orange the bats infest orchards causing hundreds of thousands of dollars of damage,” Mr Gee said.
“Our orchardists do it tough enough without having to deal with this added burden.”
Mr Gee encouraged interested fruit growers to get in touch with the NSW Rural Assistance Authority as soon as possible.
The Netting Subsidy Program is administered by the NSW Rural Assistance Authority and more information can be found at www.raa.nsw.gov.au/assistance/flying-fox-netting or by phoning 1800 678 593.