Court hears of Laman Street figs bat threat

Two ecological experts were at odds when giving evidence to a court yesterday about whether the removal of fig trees from inner-Newcastle’s Laman Street would adversely affect protected or threatened fauna.

Both acknowledged to a hearing of the NSW Land and Environment Court that they had not carried out a survey of the figs for bats and flying foxes.

The ecological consultants appeared concurrently on the fourth day of a hearing about the Parks and Playgrounds Movement’s efforts to stop Newcastle City Council’s plans to remove the 14 figs.

The movement argued the council did not consider the environmental effects in its decision to remove the figs.

The court heard yesterday a third ecological consultant, Charles Williams, who appeared for the movement on another day of the hearing, had recently carried out a survey of the figs for roosting hollows.

Ecological consultant Andrew Smith said Mr Williams’s survey had identified only one hollow that was deep enough for bat maternity roosting, but it was low to the ground and susceptible to rats.

Dr Smith said any bats that used the trees would be non-threatened species, as others such as the threatened greater broad-nosed bat were larger.

Common urban bats would not be affected because of the loss of the small section of trees, as they tended to be highly mobile, Dr Smith said.

John Ayling, SC, on the movement’s legal team, said Dr Smith had made broad statements.

Bat specialist Glenn Hoye said Dr Smith’s conclusion was questionable as ‘‘we really have a poor understanding’’ of bats’ use of urban trees.

Mr Hoye said grey-headed flying foxes, a threatened species, in Blackbutt Reserve, may use the trees as a food source.

Mr Hoye said he had not surveyed the figs when asked by the council’s Adrian Galasso, SC, whether his role had been to ‘‘criticise the work of others’’.

Justice Peter Biscoe reserved his judgment yesterday.

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