NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli and Health Minister Jillian Skinner should visit Lorn immediately to experience first-hand the toll that 30,000 noisy and smelly bats are having on residents, Maitland City councillor Arch Humphery has said.
But ministers Piccoli and Skinner don’t appear to believe there is a problem.
This is despite their ministerial colleague, Environment Minister and Maitland MP Robyn Parker, putting the Office of Environment and Heritage on standby to help Maitland council if it needs assistance.
Mr Piccoli and Mrs Skinner refused to comment on Lorn’s bat plague, instead referring inquiries to the NSW Department of Education and Communities and Hunter New England Health.
The Department of Education and Hunter New England Health issued statements denying that the public were at risk, even though Nillo Infants School students were kept indoors on March 15 and 16 when bats moved into the trees surrounding the school.
Principal Vicki Sellens liaised with school director Brian Campbell to introduce hygiene and playground procedures to keep students safe, but in a statement to the Mercury the department said that because the bats only roosted at the school for two days they “no longer directly affect the school”.
“A period of rain coinciding with the departure of the bats thoroughly cleansed the area and once cleanliness was assured, students had free access to all the usual areas,” a department spokesperson said.
The spokesperson said if the bats returned the department would treat each case on an individual basis, adding that student safety was the main priority.
Cr Humphery said parents were deeply concerned about the bats and many were thinking of removing their children from the school.
Mr Piccoli’s and Ms Skinner’s stance was unbelievable when people have “cried and begged for help”, he said.
“It’s all very well for the departments to say there is no danger, but the Environment Minister Robyn Parker has her department on standby and has admitted her concern which is completely contradicting what Mr Piccoli and Ms Skinner are saying.
“One hundred and twenty people turned up at the council meeting on Tuesday who were so worried about the bats,” Cr Humphery said.