Council supports netting scheme’s return to help farmers

Oakdale farmer Ed Biel has “highly commended” Wollondilly Council for supporting local farmers who need financial help protecting their orchards.

The council is urging the state and federal governments to continue funding the flying fox netting subsidy scheme.

The scheme provided farmers with funding to purchase and install protective netting for their orchards.

Bat species, such as the endangered Grey Headed Flying Fox, are moving to the fruit trees of orchards in the Wollondilly region because of a state-wide shortage of their food supplies.

Mr Biel believes the scheme should be extended to help other Wollondilly farmers.

“The scheme is a great initiative for the council to support especially for the few remaining orchardists in Wollondilly.

“I highly commend the council for its actions.”

The council’s general manager Luke Johnson said orchards were the backbone of Wollondilly’s agricultural economy.

“It is important the council supports our farmers and campaigns for the state and federal governments to reinstate the scheme so that our farmers can receive the financial support they need to protect their crops,” he said.

Flying foxes are more reliant on orchards for their new food source because they can not find their natural food due to clearing of their natural habitat.

El Nino weather patterns, the cutting down of eucalyptus trees and the trees’ irregular flowering habits have all impacted the bats.

Mr Biel originally campaigned for the scheme and took up the funding when the scheme was first introduced.

“I was one of the first in the Sydney Basin to get netting because I advocated for the subsidy,” he said.

“I netted half of my property at my own expense before the scheme was introduced and the other half was totally devastated year in and year out by flying foxes.

“I couldn’t continue farming without netting.

“I lobbied with the NSW Farmers Association and we successfully obtained the funding.

“Once the netting was installed on all of my property I could achieve a proper harvest each year.”

Mr Biel said the netting was successful in stopping the bats, birds and insects from eating his fruit.

He said netting his property, even with the subsidy, was expensive.

“In my case I bit the bullet and contributed 50 per cent of the cost because otherwise I would have lost everything.”

Mr Biel said he sympathised with farmers who couldn’t afford to net their properties even with the scheme.

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