Flying-foxes: questions and answers
Why do we need a balanced approach to flying-fox roost management?
The Queensland Government appreciates that flying-fox roosts can be a source of unpleasant noise and smells in some places. It also recognises the need for flying-fox management arrangements to achieve a balance between addressing the concerns of impacted residents with the need to protect and retain flying-fox populations in the wild. Flying-foxes play an essential role as pollinators for many native plant species.
A balanced approach to flying-fox roost management empowers local governments to act more responsively in the interests of their communities when flying-fox roosts are causing problems.
How do local governments manage flying-fox roosts?
The current flying-fox management framework gives local governments the right to disperse, remove or otherwise manage flying-fox roosts in designated urban flying-fox management areas (UFFMA) using non-lethal measures only and subject to a code of practice, the permission of relevant landholders and other applicable laws.
Local governments wishing to either conduct non-code compliant activities within an UFFMA or manage a roost outside of an UFFMA are required to obtain a flying-fox roost management permit (FFRMP) from the department.
How can members of the public manage flying-fox roosts?
All members of the public may undertake low impact activities at roosts according to the ‘Code of practice—Low impact activities affecting flying-fox roosts’. Low impact activities are mulching, mowing watering, or weeding under or near roost trees, minor trimming of roost trees, and installation, maintenance and removal of infrastructure.
Members of the public and corporate bodies such as schools, body corporates and the like may apply for a FFRMP to manage flying-fox roosts on their own properties. The FFRMP holder has a number of actions at its disposal including destroying a roost, dispersing the roost, or disturbing the roost e.g. using water sprinklers to create a buffer or modifying a part of the roost through tree trimming and/or removal of roost trees.
Can a weed be a tree and can a whole tree be removed as a low impact activity under the relevant code of practice?
The control and removal of weeds is carried out by local governments in accordance with their weed management program. A number of tree species are also classified as weeds and, despite this, where they are used as roost trees or are adjacent to a roost they must be managed in a way that is compliant with the Code of practice—Low impact activities affecting flying-fox roosts (i.e. they can undergo minor trimming once a year). If the tree is to be removed or undergo more than 10% trimming this needs to comply with the Code of practice—Ecologically sustainable management of flying-fox roosts. If the tree is on private property, the owner should contact their local government to confirm if it is a weed species and seek advice on how to remove it if it is near a flying-fox roost.
What is the definition of ‘minor trimming’ as a low impact activity and how do you measure it?
Minor trimming is defined as ‘limited to 10% (in any 12 month period) of the total canopy of a roost tree’ in the Code of practice—Low impact activities affecting flying-fox roosts. The measurement of this can be difficult for large trees and those with irregular shapes. It also needs to be recognised that some trees will grow more than 10% in a year and that pruning can require overcutting to control their growth. Overcutting is also practiced to enhance a tree’s amenity value as it stimulates a layer of new growth to cover the tree. In this situation the initial overcutting is offset by the regrowth. This will be regarded as minor trimming where the net effect is to reduce the canopy of the tree by a maximum of 10%. This form of pruning can be necessary to maintain the health and amenity value of the tree.
Calculating the amount of a tree’s canopy that can be trimmed will depend on its shape and height. For regular shaped trees (e.g. spherical, cylindrical, cone-shaped) the areas and volumes of the canopy can be calculated from known formulas). The more a tree varies from these shapes then the tree can be separated into a number of smaller and more regular shapes that can be measured and the total canopy cover is the sum of the volumes of these smaller components.
Does minor trimming include coppicing or pollarding?
These are pruning techniques that remove all the branches and foliage of a tree to create a particular growth pattern and visual effect. As these practices are applied to trees throughout their lives it would make them unsuitable for roosting by flying-foxes.
Does mulching, as mentioned in the Code of practice—Low impact activities affecting flying-fox roosts include the use of motorised mulchers?
Mulching under this code of practice means to distribute mulch. Therefore any use of a mulcher should be offsite and far enough away from a roost to ensure the flying-foxes are not disturbed. Any mulch produced in this way can then be returned to the site near a roost.
Does development (such as land clearing, bulk earthworks, construction and other activities linked to development that are likely to impact a flying-fox) in or adjacent a flying-fox roost require the proponent to obtain a flying-fox roost management permit before undertaking these activities?
Where major development projects and the associated activities involved (e.g. major earthworks, vegetation clearing) are likely to impact on a flying-fox roost, is it necessary for the developer to obtain a flying-fox roost management permit to first disperse or displace the flying-foxes to avoid having any impact on them.
Any developer must comply with the Nature Conservation Act 1992 and in these circumstances the owner of the property will need to have the authority under this Act and that any works are carried out without harming flying-foxes.
Are local governments permitted to use lethal measures to manage flying-fox roosts?
No. Local governments have generally approached flying-fox roost management in a well-considered and deliberate manner, finding the balance point where community expectations are met whilst not threatening flying-fox conservation and welfare.
The current framework (Code of practice—Low impact activities affecting flying-fox roosts and Code of practice—Ecologically sustainable management of flying-fox roosts ) only authorises non-lethal management methods, and will continue to prohibit lethal measures being used as part of any roost management response.
How does the government ensure conservation of flying-foxes?
Flying-foxes are classified as protected wildlife in Queensland under the Nature Conservation Act 1992.
What about animal welfare considerations?
The main purpose of the flying-fox codes of practice is to ensure that the chance of management actions under the codes resulting in harm to flying-foxes is minimised and that appropriate welfare standards are upheld.