Cats be warned Morgan's on the way

JARED NICOLL
Last updated 07:42 19/03/2013
Gareth Morgan
Bob Zuur 2012

Andy Roberts (DOC), Gareth Morgan and Te Radar on Antipodes Island

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Feline foe Gareth Morgan says he won't favour people bringing in dead wild cats when he is guest judge at the hunting competition at the Picton Pestival.

The Wellington-based philanthropist and economist, more famous this year for his campaign against cats, will judge the small, big and odd dead animal entries from hunters at the Pestival's pest contest, which will be held during the festival at Waitohi Domain on March 23.

The first annual Pestival will be a celebration of pest eradication and profits will go to the Kaipupu Point Sounds Wildlife Sanctuary.

Dr Morgan said he was eager to see what would turn up at the Pestival but "expected to be well-briefed" on what to look out for.

"I'd like to say I won't be biased, given they're the only pests we don't seem to have any strategy for dealing with, but no, in reality I won't be biased."

Festival organisers asked him to be a guest judge because he had been "making a fair bit of noise" about conservation this year.

"I applaud the people of Picton on their hard work and innovative approach to protecting their native and endemic flora and fauna.

"I'm looking forward to the festival, I'm going to sail across Cook Strait from Wellington.

"I've spent a bit of time in the [Marlborough] Sounds before, mainly fishing."

Dr Morgan caused controversy in January when he announced the Morgan Foundation's Cats to Go campaign and asked domestic cat owners to refrain from replacing their feline friends after they died.

It also called for cat owners to put bells on their cats, get them neutered and keep them inside.

The campaign was based on a string of facts including that New Zealanders owned the most cats per capita in the world with 1.4 million cats in New Zealand. Its website says cats contributed to the extinction of nine native bird species and impacted another 33 endangered species.

The site goes as far as to say that though the campaign does "not necessarily" suggest you euthanase your cat "that is an option".

The campaign drew criticism from the SPCA which Dr Morgan labelled "environmental bandits" and last month began offering the society a $5 bounty for every free-ranging, homeless cat destroyed by an authorised facility.

SPCA national chief executive Robyn Kippenberger said she thought the bounty was "nonsense" and would be abused.

The Department of Conservation said it appreciated Dr Morgan's work to "bring environmental issues and the plight of our native species to the attention of New Zealanders".

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- The Marlborough Express

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