Contemporary issues in managing flying-fox camps: a publicly-documented conflict from Maclean on the north coast of NSW
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Carole West, 2002. "Contemporary issues in managing flying-fox camps: a publicly-documented conflict from Maclean on the north coast of NSW", Managing the Grey-headed Flying-fox: As a Threatened Species in NSW, Peggy Eby, Daniel Lunney
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In the past two decades the management of flying-fox camps in New South Wales has shifted from a largely unregulated process controlled by local communities to a highly restrictive process regulated by government agencies. At the same time the human population in coastal areas inhabited by flying-foxes has increased rapidly and development for housing and public use has brought people and roosting flying-foxes into closer contact. A study of the township of Maclean on the north coast of NSW provides a publicly-documented example of the impacts of these changes on Grey-headed Flying-fox campsites and their human neighbours. It shows the conflict that occurs when planning at government level, both state and local, fails to maintain a buffer zone between increasingly-protected flying-fox camps and encroaching urban development. The Maclean conflict received wide media coverage and articles from local newspapers are used to provide a view of the course of the conflict and the various attempts at resolution.
Grey-headed Flying-foxes have roosted in a small remnant patch of subtropical rainforest on the outskirts of the Maclean township (the Reserve) since at least 1885. Numbers in the camp vary considerably and have at times been estimated at over 100,000. The Reserve is surrounded by public land that has been progressively divided up and developed for a cemetery, show ground, sporting facilities, TAFE college and high school. In the late 1990s extensions to the Maclean High School brought classrooms to within 10 m of roosting flying-foxes. This occurred despite NSW legislation and government policy that protected animals in the camp from direct harm. There was no mechanism to protect either the flying-foxes or the local community from the conflict that arose in the areas surrounding the campsite. The result has been years of frustration and division within the community, and expensive attempts to resolve what has proven to be an ongoing management problem. In my view it is vital that the situation at Maclean is not repeated at any other flying-fox campsite. The records from local newspapers highlight the main issues that need to be addressed: 1) the establishment of recognised buffer zones around camps to protect both people and flying-foxes from interacting in urban areas, 2) procedures that link government planning agencies and communities, 3) programs to educate the public about flying-foxes and their ecology and 4) research into improved management techniques for camps that are already affected by human development.