Local bird lovers are becoming increasingly frustrated that Auckland Council won’t allow them to trap cats killing endangered shorebirds during the nesting season.
Omaha Shorebirds Protection Trust volunteers last week appealed to Rodney Local Board to help them deal with the issue at the fenced-off sanctuary, at the northern tip of the beach.
Trust president Marie Ward told Board members that cats out at night were attacking endangered dotterels and oystercatchers, and one in particular had regularly been caught on camera.
“They kill the male sitting on the nest overnight,” she said. “These birds are very stoic and when a cat comes in, the bird won’t leave the nest until the last minute, so we tend to find males with their heads chewed off or with wounds to the back of their necks.”
She said there would be no breeding dotterel pairs left if the cat continued to keep entering the sanctuary this season.
“We’re not happy that we can’t control this ourselves. Council policy is to use contractors,” she added. “We think we’d be better off doing it ourselves, because we know where the nests are and we know where we should put traps.”
She showed board members an email from Council saying it was policy to only have cat control on Council land carried out by contractors, and not volunteers.
“This is due to the need to manage sensitivities around owned cats and keeps our volunteers safe, and protects our ability to do cat control in the future,” it said.
The email went on to say that the Omaha reserve was in Council’s “second tier tranche of sites, which means it’s likely it’ll get control from next financial year”.
“We’re being told we must wait,” Ms Ward said. “We simply can’t wait for that.”
Trust volunteer Colin Binsted asked local board members to pass a resolution asking Council to change its operational position, so volunteers experienced in trapping could carry out live cat capture with all appropriate procedures.
“Cats have a free-for-all on that reserve. Volunteers are not allowed to trap and we don’t know when a professional trapper can come or even if there’s money for him to come,” he said.
Mr Binsted said allowing volunteers to trap would be a “win-win-win” situation – for the environment, for Council and for groups like the Omaha trust.
“This will save Council money, as they don’t have to employ a professional contractor or find any funds whatsoever,” he said.
“What we have is a big council telling a little group ‘you can’t do it’. That’s totally inappropriate for our reserve.”
Board members thanked Ms Ward and Mr Binsted for their presentation.
Chair Phelan Pirrie said after the meeting that while it was outside the Board’s remit to get Council to change its policy, members were on-board and sympathetic, and he hoped the trust could participate with staff on its cat control plan in the coming year.