Farmers stick to their guns on bats

A STATEWIDE cull managed by the NSW Game Council is the only way to control flying foxes that have devastated the region’s orchards, says the vice president of the NSW Farmers Association, Peter Darley.

Mr Darley has responded to claims by the Environmentally Concerned Citizens of Orange that netting is the most effective solution, by saying it was an option that most orchardists simply couldn’t afford.

Mr Darley said most farmers would struggle to pay for nets and the labour required to install them, even if the government issued grants that covered 50 per cent of the costs.

“Netting would cost over $50,000 per hectare and, even if the government were to consider grants, the remaining 50 per cent cost to growers would still be prohibitive due to the impact of the last 10 years, which has included drought, hail and now vermin eating our crop,” he said.

“And it’s not just the initial cost, it’s the ongoing cost of maintenance because netting must be rolled up in winter because of the threat of snow and you’re looking at $1.50 per metre in labour costs to roll it up and roll it out again.”

The NSW Farmers Association has called for an independent audit of grey-headed flying fox numbers across NSW to determine whether the bats still deserve their classification as an endangered species.

If the populations is large enough, the association wants a controlled cull managed by the game council.

Farmers can apply for an individual culling licence that allows them to kill a maximum of 50 flying foxes.

Mr Darley rejected the view of ECCO president, Neil Jones, who has said an independent investigation to quantify the damage flying foxes have caused NSW farmers is also needed.

“While we’re waiting for that to happen, it would allow time for the flying foxes to inflict further damage to crop in future seasons,” he said.

Mr Darley also disagreed that, as business owners, orchardists should wear the full cost of controlling flying foxes.

“If people don’t support these programs, you will see the demise of horticulture in this country,” he said.

“The only option you’ll have is to purchase fresh products from overseas.”