Kapiti subdivision imposes a no-cats covenant to protect wildlife

Prime cat-free property for sale in the Kotuku Parks subdivision.
JOEL MAXWELL/ FAIRFAX NZ

Prime cat-free property for sale in the Kotuku Parks subdivision.

As Wellington City Council mulls stricter cat controls, the Kapiti Coast has become home to a beachfront haven with a full-on cat ban.

Gingers, tabbies, and persians will never roam free on the streets of the latest stages of the Kotuku Parks subdivision. The sign at the entrance has a clear message: No cats.

A cat lover has condemned it as residential "micromanagement", but the developer says it wants to protect the environment, and warns that,  as a last resort, cat ban breaches could head to court.

A wild cat, unwelcome in the Waikanae estuary beside the Kotuku Parks subdivision.
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A wild cat, unwelcome in the Waikanae estuary beside the Kotuku Parks subdivision.

Kotuku Parks director Alan Fraser said a no-cats covenant was included for the two sections of the subdivision that border the Waikanae Estuary Scientific Reserve.

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The company had built high fencing along the edge of the subdivision to keep roaming dogs out of the estuary.

The view across stage four of the Kotuku Parks subdivision towards Kapiti Island. Behind the fence is the Waikanae ...
JOEL MAXWELL/ FAIRFAX NZ

The view across stage four of the Kotuku Parks subdivision towards Kapiti Island. Behind the fence is the Waikanae Estuary Scientific Reserve, home to various native and migratory birds.

"But obviously that sort of fencing doesn't prohibit cats, and that's why it's on the covenant."

He said it was hoped that the cat ban did not upset too many people, but if cats were allowed,  the estuary – and all its birdlife – would become their backyard.

The latest stage of the subdivision opened up last month: three sections had already been sold, and three were under offer, he said.

The no-cats covenant cost at least one sale in the subdivision when one "very interested" buyer wanted to keep an indoor cat. The answer was no, Fraser said.

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Owners were kept well-informed about the covenant before buying land, but if they decided to get a cat, then community mediation would hopefully resolve the issue.

In a case of last resort, the covenant, like others in the title that control building specifications, could be argued in court, he said.

Wellington City Council received almost 500 public submissions on its proposed Animals Bylaw this year, which includes a number of rules to stop cats from killing native wildlife.

It floated the idea of of capping the number of cats per household at three, or possibly zero for homes near wildlife-sensitive areas, such as the Zealandia sanctuary.

Wellington councillors will consider a final version of animal bylaw in August.

Kapiti Coast district councillor K Gurunathan, a Waikanae Estuary Care Group member, said the covenant was a "working example" of managing cats near sensitive eco-reserves.

"Prospective buyers are given information on the no-cats covenant and the danger cats pose to the native and migratory birds, some of which nest on the sand flats."

Buyers were also warned of pest trapping at the reserve, and that feral or domestic cats straying into the reserve could potentially be trapped, he said.

Feline Rights New Zealand secretary Pete Rose said New Zealand was suffering from a "mass hysteria" against cats created by extremist environmental groups.

However, he accepted developers had a right to set the rules for their subdivisions, even if this created "a micromanagement zone" for residents.

BIRDS GALORE

* The Waikanae estuary reserve is managed by the Department of Conservation and Kapiti Coast District Council. Dogs on leads are allowed.

* The estuary has more resident or visiting coastal and aquatic birds than any other spots on the Wellington coast, including banded dotterels, variable oystercatchers, pied stilts, brown teals and royal spoonbills.

* Kotuku Parks director Alan Fraser said the no-cat covenant was put in place after discussions with now-defunct environmental group Kapiti Environmental Action, led by locals Daphne Steel and June Rowland.

 - Stuff

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