AN ELDERLY couple are unable to harvest rainwater on their own property after it was declared a bat habitat.
Ian and Rosemary Bender from Inverell are the latest victims of an unprecedented bat plague around the town, which has impacted on businesses, destroyed hundreds of historic trees and sparked howls of protest from residents and local leaders.
The 100,000-strong bat colony that has held the town hostage since June is slowly thinning out but its effects are still being felt at “bat ground zero”, on the western fringe of Inverell.
The Benders, who are not connected to town water, have been forced to truck water in at $200 a load because the bat droppings on their roof could potentially end up in their rainwater tank.
Mr Bender, 82, said he had spent more than four decades running a farm in Mungundi – much of it during drought – and had never had to buy water before.
“Back on the farm, we would have known exactly what to do about the bats – keep shooting until they went,” Mr Bender said.
“We are very, very annoyed about the situation and frankly can’t see the sense in it.
“The bats have so many rights now that I would be fined thousands of dollars if I was to even try and clean up my property.”
He said the devastation the bats had caused trees in the area looked “no different to artillery shelling”.
“It’s like a scene from a treed area that was shelled in the Great War,” Mr Bender said.
The Benders’ plight was raised with representatives from the Office of Environment and Heritage at an Inverell council meeting last week.
It comes as the owners of the historic Blair Athol property, which borders the Benders’ property, face a massive clean-up bill after the bat plague.