Heli option could solve bat problem

A colony of little red flying foxes continues to plague Ingham. IMAGE: CSIRO

HINCHINBROOK MP Nick Dametto has called for helicopters to be considered to disperse bats from Ingham after it was revealed the State Government’s own emergency helicopter engaged in the same practice.

In a letter responding to Mr Dametto’s concerns regarding the issue of bats obstructing the flight path of the Queensland Government Air (QGAir) helicopter when landing at Ingham Hospital, Health Minister Dr Miles admitted that “emergency helicopter crews may modify or make missed approaches in an attempt to disperse wildlife prior to landing”.

Dr Miles confirmed this was the case on the night of January 9, when the helicopter was approaching the Ingham Hospital landing pad but was impeded by a swarm of bats. The incident was witnessed by multiple members of the community including Mr Dametto himself.

“I’d like to thank Dr Miles for his thorough and considerate response to my initial letter, which is helpful in determining what dispersal methods may be effective when it comes to Ingham’s bat colony,” Mr Dametto said.

“As far as I’m concerned, if the emergency helicopter is permitted to engage in this sort of dispersal activity, then there’s no reason why a private operator couldn’t do the same thing.

“After discussions with Hinchinbrook Shire mayor Ramon Jayo, I am aware of the effectiveness of using helicopters to disperse bats in Charters Towers during 2012 when the mayor was part of Charters Towers Regional Council. The dispersal was successful in moving the colony away from the town centre there for a number of months without any bat deaths. I’d call on the government now to consider giving Hinchinbrook Shire Council permission to do something similar.”

Mr Dametto said that he would continue to work with Hinchinbrook Shire Council and Biodiversity Australia to determine a suitable location for dispersing the bat colony and lobby State Environment Minister Leanne Enoch to use a helicopter for dispersing bats.

“Using a helicopter would be an ideal way to disperse the bat colony from Ingham’s Botanical Gardens once an alternative roost has been determined, but I am open to considering alternatives as well, such as drones,” he said.

“We need to stop toying with this problem and the Department of Environment and Science needs to acknowledge that the current framework does not give us the effective tools required for dispersal. There’s only so much water cannons, sound, light and smoke can achieve.

“I stand with the community in saying the State Government needs to fix this long-standing problem once and for all.”

Nick Dametto MP