Taking aim at policy

JUST one month remains until the bulk of the region's farmers begin picking their crop, and concerned growers like Craig van Rooyen fear more than 30% of their product will be lost to flying foxes if damage mitigation permits are not re-introduced.

Member for Burnett Rob Messenger said 300,000 tonnes of fruit and vegetables were harvested in the region each year or about $1 billion in market-place value.

“It'll break us, no doubt about it, and all we are asking is to shoot about 20 flying foxes a season, that's all that is required to scare the rest off and solve the problem,” Mr van Rooyen said.

Shadow Minister for Primary Industries and Fisheries Ray Hopper said it was time the state government came to its senses.

“They have abolished the mitigation permits without providing a suitable alternative in place, and the New South Wales government has re-introduced them,” he said.

“Even the New South Wales Greens support shooting a small number until a suitable, effective alternative is available.”

Farmers Mr van Rooyen and John Kajeweski have each spent more than $100,000 installing floodlights on their land to scare away the flying foxes, but claim it is ineffective.

“They are smart creatures, they will figure out the light won't hurt eventually and the lights will be useless,” Mr van Rooyen said.

The former South African park ranger said he could be forced to cut 30 jobs, considering there will be fewer crops to manage.

“Time is ticking away and we may have to just sit and watch while the flying foxes land on our crops, there is no other alternative,” he said.

Breeding season is also approaching and Mr Messenger urged that tests be conducted to identify what, if any diseases, the tens of thousands of flying foxes in the region are carrying.

“They are in an urban area, and people need to know if these things are dangerous, it's no different to a factory being opened up in the middle of town,” he said.

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