Editorial: Focus on the true pests

Last updated 09:59 29/01/2013

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There are few truly controversial things you could say that would upset much of the population. But getting rid of cats in New Zealand would easily make it on to the list.

Environmental campaigner Gareth Morgan quotes figures that almost half of New Zealand households have a cat or two, which he says makes us the world's most prolific cat owners. He also points out about 40 per cent of our native land birds are already extinct.

In August, he raised hackles when proposing to make Stewart Island the world's first pest-free community, which included getting rid of feral and pet cats. We should point out he's not advocating killing your pet cat - simply, when it dies, don't replace it.

To be fair, Mr Morgan is right. Cats kill. They're a significant player in the destruction of native birds, skinks and invertebrates such as weta. But so are dogs. There are constantly calls for dog owners not to allow their pets near beaches where penguins live, but there's no proposal to get rid of dogs from all beach areas.

Humans live in only a small percentage of New Zealand. There's a lot of wilderness out there, a lot of native bush that's home to our wildlife.

Mr Morgan has always been ready to express his views, and he certainly knows how to produce a soundbite - but upsetting much of the wider populace isn't the way to achieve goals.

He's done something similar with his football team, the Wellington Phoenix. Even though he's admitted his football knowledge is limited, he's decided as co-owner that he wants them to play a different style of football, a more attractive passing style, to ensure success in the long-term.

We're all for making the beautiful game even better. But now he's taking a swipe or two at Phoenix fans, criticising them for wanting "instant gratification". He wants them to put up with short-term pain because the bigger picture is far more important.

That's how he sees the cat issue. Regardless of the widespread upset banning cats would cause in the short term, bringing back the birdlife would be worth it.

But he's forgetting the true pests. Possums, stoats, ferrets, rats, mice and other vermin do untold damage to wildlife and fauna in our native forests. Finding a way to tackle those would surely bring a greater benefit than getting rid of pet cats.

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- The Marlborough Express

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