Gareth Morgan a 'polarising figure' on feral cat issue
Gareth Morgan's daughter says her father's 'polarising' nature is why communities need to lead feral cat control.
Morgan Foundation project manager Jessi Morgan, daughter of businessman Gareth Morgan who is also a campaigner for tougher controls on cats, spoke at the Horizons Regional Council pest management plan hearing this week.
The Morgan Foundation has submitted to the council's plan in the hopes of getting a clear definition of feral cats as any cat without a microchip, collar or harness.
The hope is that it would help control cats near wildlife areas, allowing domestic cats to be returned and for others to be rehomed or humanely euthanised.
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Jessi Morgan was asked if the foundation would lead a trial at the Manawatu Estuary Ramsar site in Foxton to demonstrate the concept.
The estuary is home to a large variety of birds, with up to 93 species identified there.
An initiative would need to be community-led, rather than being run by the foundation due to the "Gareth polarisation issue", she said.
Gareth Morgan has often divided public opinion for his stance on cats, the Abel Tasman beach crowdfunding, and the flag debate.
Jessi Morgan said they also needed compulsory microchipping to be in place as a trial would not work without that.
Morgan spoke about the feral cat problem to the council, saying that there were no means to determine what was feral.
"Part of this is protecting domestic cats as well."
Cats could roam 2.5 kilometres in a rural environment and 1km in urban areas.
"So they've got a huge distance and they kill for fun."
Morgan said they had consensus from the Vets Association and SPCA that microchipping was a good way to determine if they were owned.
She posited the idea that fines could be given for cats caught in wildlife areas, with increasing penalty for repeated incidents, but said that was up to the council.
She said 85 per cent of the public supported chipping.
Palmerston North councillor Pat Kelly asked if the foundation would be putting any money into it.
Morgan said they had legal advice saying that the pest management plan was the best place for legislation, but they were investing time and effort.
The foundation would be interested in a pilot programme at Foxton. The Ramsar site was a good example because people could not determine if a cat was domestic or stray.
Morgan said they proposed collars and microchipping, because collars alone could come off.
Horizons chief executive Michael McCartney said monitoring cats for biodiversity would be a regional council issue.
He cited the district councils' management of dogs, and having to employ someone, and predicted that cat control would require similar.
"If we had this regime in place, there will be an expectation that it is managed.
"It would require additional resource that we would have to employ to manage feral cats."
Hans Kriek, executive director of animal advocacy group SAFE, said compulsory microchipping would not work 100 per cent. He compared it to dog registrations.
"Most people are law abiding citizens but there are always a group that won't do it. That will be the same with microchipping."