$36K flying fox fence to deter drunken daredevils

A fence will be built around the popular flying fox at the Fitzroy Street playground, to ward off noisy night-time revellers.

The flying fox in the playground at the top of the Bull Paddock has caused some expensive issues for the council since it was first installed in August 2012, with adults and children reportedly using the playground equipment at all hours of the day and night. The council is now considering a new fence and self-locking mechanism.

On August 5, 2012, the playground was opened. By the council’s meeting on August 28, the decision had been made to lock the equipment each night “in response to complaints around the noise generated from people using the flying fox at night.”

Neighbours say the noise was constant and unbearable for the three weeks that it was open overnight.

The cost of paying council workers or contractors to padlock the flying fox every night and open it each morning runs around $9000 each year. 

SVC Executive Director Infrastructure Heinz Kausche told the council during their September 17 Ordinary Meeting that, “Following the closure of the Fitzroy Street Playground earlier this year in response to Covid-19, a review of the costs associated with locking and unlocking the flying fox each day was undertaken…

“A trial was undertaken to not lock the flying fox each night for a short period following the reopening of the playground, however this generated several noise complaints from residents residing nearby to the playground.”

Mr Kausche then proposed the council install a fence around the flying fox with a 4G connected lock, which can close itself at a preset time each evening and open itself in the morning. The locking mechanism would be one-way, so that people inside the enclosure could still get out if they found themselves locked in. 

The cost for a fence and self-locking gate was estimated at $36,000, but Mr Kausche said that was conservative and he anticipated savings could be found. Ongoing 4G connectivity for the gate would cost $1200.

“Anecdotally, that type of equipment is quite popular with children,” said Mr Kausche. “Where it’s located on the Snowy Mountains Highway going through town, people do tend to take advantage of it.

“It does seem to be well used and one of our higher use playgrounds.”

Snowy Valleys Councillor Margaret Isselmann suggested the flying fox should be removed and the money spent elsewhere. 

“There may be other parks in other areas of the council that have equally high use and haven’t been considered for that funding … my issue is we could just simply stop the flying fox working, the park would still operate because people would still come and stop and use the toilets, and the cost would be negligible for the whole shire and we move on,” she said.

Deputy Mayor John Larter, one of the original supporters of the playground’s creation, disagreed.

“It’s a very popular park, in my opinion,” he said. “It is iconic, it allows connectivity, it’s in a beautiful spot, it allows people to pull up in town and get something to eat and then bring the kids down to the park. It’s been recognised as our feature area in Tumut from the point of view that we’ve now got a pump track, basketball set up, the skate park and new additions there. 

“It’s a wonderful park, it’s a wonderful asset.”

Cr Larter said that for an up front spend of $36,000, the council would “be saving money in the years to come.”

The decision to build a fence and self-locking gate was approved 8-1, with Cr Isselmann dissenting. 

Neighbours said they were pleased to hear the council was finding a solution for both protecting the peace of the community while saving on long term expenses. Their only concern was that the fence be built in such a way that passersby’s couldn’t simply climb in and out and continue to use the equipment after hours.

The council responded that “it is intended that the fence will be 1.8m high and designed so that it will make climbing difficult.  Determinations on the  type of fencing will happen now  that installation of the fence and gate has been approved.”