MP takes aim at sick bats

Member for Burnett Rob Messenger has grave concerns about health risks caused by the region’s flying fox colonies.
Member for Burnett Rob Messenger has grave concerns about health risks caused by the region’s flying fox colonies. Scottie Simmonds

ANY colonies of flying foxes carrying the Hendra virus in Bundaberg would be wiped out if Member for Burnett Rob Messenger has his way.

Mr Messenger yesterday called on both the government and the LNP to commit to a public health policy of destroying flying fox colonies in urban areas if they were found to be carrying deadly diseases.

Speaking on the banks of the Burnett River near a flying fox colony, Mr Messenger said the animals should be eradicated or moved away from urban or populated areas immediately.

“You only have to start shooting a few and they’ll go,” he said.

Mr Messenger said up to now, flying foxes had been treated as an environmental issue when they should be regarded as a public health risk.

“We’ve got to show some common sense with this menace,” he said.

Mr Messenger said seven people had been diagnosed with the Hendra virus since 1994, and of those four had died.

He also called on the government to give farmers the power to protect their crops from flying foxes.

But Opposition environment spokesman and Member for Bundaberg Jack Dempsey said if anyone had reports of injury or illness from flying foxes they should contact him.

“We don’t need any extreme or radical and ill-thought-out actions,” Mr Dempsey said.

“What we need is a balance between people, politics and a properly thought-out policy.”

Mr Dempsey said he would like to see more funding for research into a cure for the Hendra virus.

He said the response to flying foxes in urban areas should be totally different to the response in agricultural areas.

“We need to make sure we’ve got all the facts out there, and all the truth,” Mr Dempsey said.

“Not just bits of the truth.”

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