THE flying foxes formerly of Machattie Park have yet to return this summer, but their presence remains.
Cautiously optimistic Bathurst Regional Council is not yet willing to make any definitive announcements, but has noted that the park’s trees are uninhabited – so far, at least.
“The flying foxes haven’t returned to Machattie Park at this stage,” mayor Graeme Hanger said this week. “Only individual or small numbers have been sighted across Bathurst.”
There was a definite note of circumspect in that statement – and with good reason.
For one thing, the flying foxes’ behaviour is hard to predict.
But the more important reason must be that council remembers what a controversy the creatures created last year and there is no appetite to tempt fate by declaring that the same challenge won’t be faced this year.
And it was a challenge.
Faced with thousands of flying foxes suddenly filling the park, council turned itself inside out last summer as it tried to decide what approach to take, before eventually settling on a policy of what can only be called uneasy acceptance.
Even once the flying foxes had moved on, the debate within council continued as the community was consulted, a management plan was created and a number of deterrent methods were considered.
In the end, told that the deterrent and dispersal methods would cost close to $500,000 and have an extremely low chance of success, councillors voted back in September for another version of uneasy acceptance: waiting to see what happened and cleaning the Machattie Park furniture more often if need be.
So the story so far can be summarised thus: the flying foxes flew in and made camp when no-one expected them to do so. Confusion and concern followed. When the city had had months to prepare for them to fly in again, they didn’t do so. Uncertainty followed.
In the meantime, it’s doubtful that either of the sides in the flying fox debate – the let-them-be crowd or the shoo-them-away crowd (who found it hard to accept they were hamstrung by the fact the flying foxes are protected) – had their mind changed amid all the sound and fury of the past year.
What a strange story it’s been. And there’s no guarantee it has ended just yet.
We’ll all just have to keep watching the skies.