Protesters have for the past four days been disrupting work adjacent to Bega's Littlewoods Estate development, claiming activity on the construction site could pose a serious threat to a colony of grey-headed flying foxes, classed as a vulnerable species.
Members of Friends of the Glebe Wetlands (FoGW) have been blockading work on the fringes of Glebe Lagoon since Friday, with concerns the neighbouring development was encroaching on public land and overlapping the habitat of the bat camp, which is required to have a protective buffer.
Those claims are strongly denied by developer Gerard Littlewood, who said all work being undertaken was approved in their development consent, and that numerous modifications had already been implemented to mitigate complaints from FoGW.
President of the activist group Hugh Pitty said the activity of the developers had been drawn to the attention of Bega Valley Shire Council (BVSC) staff on Friday.
Mr Pitty said the flying fox camp has been identified as one of a small handful of high priority breeding sites for the species and claimed the work he was blocking involved the removal of vegetation to work on drain pipes, with fears for the habitat of nearby flying fox mothers and pups.
However, Mr Littlewood said there were no plans to remove any trees, but only the need to remove ground vegetation at the egress of the drain to allow for riprap (stones used to prevent erosion and slow runoff).
Mr Littlewood said the work being completed was within the development's conditions of consent. He acknowledged the drain and culvert were on council land, but that one of the conditions for the Littlewoods Estate DA was a requirement to upgrade the council infrastructure.
"Everything here is what we're legally allowed to be doing," Mr Littlewood said.
"We're only replacing what was already there, but with an increased size pipe."
Mr Pitty said with a greater area feeding run-off into the larger pipe, the velocity of water would increase, as well as the level of contaminants and he claimed that this hadn't been allowed for in the design of the upgrade.
"There should be a macrophyte bed put in place to maintain the water quality, this would prevent erosion and nutrient overload," Mr Pitty said.
Mr Littlewood said he was concerned the protesters were verbally harassing his staff and posting video footage of them on social media.
"It's really disappointing - my workers didn't sign up for this," he said.
"We have a right to a safe and harassment-free workplace. This is my brand, my family name they're tarnishing with their lies on Facebook," Mr Littlewood said.
A NSW Police spokesperson said police had been called out to the scene on both Saturday and Monday and are conducting inquiries into any offences that may have been committed.
FoGW stated their actions were centred around the colony of grey-headed flying foxes, which are classed as a keystone species, meaning the ecosystem would be dramatically different or cease to exist altogether without their presence.
"My interest is not in stopping workers or stopping building houses, we need them, we need jobs, we are in a housing crisis," Mr Pitty said.
"My real interest is to have the flying foxes protected and we need them [the construction site workers] not to be this close.
"This area should have been left as a buffer for the colony and it shouldn't have been a problem but now it is.
"Mitigation standards are currently being compromised and council have neglected to look after the interests of existing residents in the Glebe and areas around Belmore Street."
Mr Littlewood said his company had worked with FoGW the whole way through the development - which is just weeks away from completion. He said the internal road and underground services had all been shifted so several of the trees on site would not require removal, and that the activist group had even helped produce an informative brochure on living near flying foxes for the residents purchasing the blocks.
According to the most recent count by FoGW, the bat colony was up around an estimated population of 12,000.
The group has undertaken mass plantings in the area surrounding the lagoon this spring, which Mr Pitty said would increase the potential capacity of the colony enormously.
Water samples were taken from the allegedly affected area yesterday to be sent away for analysis.
FoGW, BVSC and Littlewoods have had mediation scheduled to take place on December 14, following legal proceedings in the Land and Environment Court last week.