The role of cats, including the domestic moggy, as killers of native wildlife is increasingly an issue raised with Auckland Council, resulting in new proposals for managing them in areas of high biodiversity.
The proposals include trapping cats in those areas and treating them as pests if they are not microchipped.
Council’s Environmental Advisory Manager, Dr Imogen Bassett, says that Council’s discussion document, which went out in 2015 as a precursor to its draft Regional Pest Management Plan review, did not even mention cats.
“However, cats were the species most submitted on by the public, with the majority asking Council to protect biodiversity from the impact of unowned cats,” Dr Bassett says. She says Council regularly receives calls and emails on the same topic.
Cats are in the draft review, which went before the Hibiscus & Bays Local Board last month for feedback.
The draft suggests redefining ‘pest cat’ so that rangers can recognise pets versus feral, or unowned/stray cats – something Dr Bassett says is otherwise very difficult to do. Microchipping is put forward as a way to achieve this. “Microchipping would provide council staff and cat owners with more certainty,” Dr Bassett says. “We would work closely with communities to make sure they are aware of cat control taking place.
Cat control is already undertaken within Shakespear Open Sanctuary’s pest proof fence, but Dr Bassett says that it’s possible this could be extended to other areas such as Eave’s Bush in Orewa and the Weiti River shellbanks.
“The biodiversity team has identified sites which are of particularly high biodiversity value. At each of these sites, staff will assess what the particular threats are to native species, with a view to managing those threats.”
Dr Bassett says that Whangaparaoa is a regional hotspot for native lizards, and with Tiritiri Matangi and Shakespear nearby, native habitats in this part of the region are important for threatened native birds as their populations start to recover and expand out from these sanctuaries.
“For this reason, cat owners in the Hibiscus Coast have an especially important contribution to make in protecting native species through responsible pet ownership.”
The draft Regional Pest Management plan will be released for public consultation early next year, around February or March, before it is adopted by Council.
Cat-free covenants grow
Environmentalists are claiming a victory after independent commissioners directed that cats be excluded from the proposed Grand View Estate subdivision, which is adjacent to DOC’s Nukumea Scenic Reserve.
The reserve is a major habitat for the at-risk, ground nesting fern bird.
In their decision released last month, commissioners came down on the side of evidence from Forest & Bird’s ecologist, Dr Margaret Stanley, which showed that few people keep cats indoors, and that relatively large numbers of cats are found wandering through bush reserves, where they can inflict damage on native wildlife.
A spokesperson for Hibiscus Coast Forest & Bird says that this important decision shows that it’s possible for big development projects to be good neighbours to wildlife.
Other cat-free developments in the area are Sunny Heights, off West Hoe Heights in Orewa and the Weiti Bay development in Stillwater.