Southland cats could have curfew if Wildlife Protection Zones introduced

Feral cats are posing issues for wildlife in some parts of Southland.
CAMERON BURNELL/FAIRFAX NZ

Feral cats are posing issues for wildlife in some parts of Southland.

A cat curfew could be introduced in some Southland areas if so-called Wildlife Protection Zones are put in place.

Environment Southland senior biosecurity officer Randall Milne said some communities, including Omaui, had expressed interest in developing Wildlife Protection Zones which could mean specific rules would be put in place for cat owners.

An engagement document says some of those rules could be a de-sexing requirement, compulsory microchipping and for cats to be kept inside at night.

Environment Southland is working on a new Regional Pest Management Plan, for which it has released the engagement document, 'Getting the best from pest management'to find out how Southlanders feel about pest management.

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The document outlines six areas for Southlanders to consider: possum control, protecting biodiversity, cats, pest classification for chinchillas, the urban gorse and broom programme and the threat of Chilean needle grass.

Omaui Landcare Charitable Trust trustee John Collins said the main problem with cats in the area came from a feral cat colony which likely developed after cat dumpings. 

The group completed a programme of 1080 bait stations in 200ha of bush at Omaui, which Collins said had wiped out a fair amount of the colony, as well as stoat, ferret and rat populations.

However, cats remained an issue for the "safe haven" area, targeting native birds such as kereru and tui as well as native lizards.

"We're not anti-cats, there's a place for cats but I believe that our wildlife is more important."

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An onus had to be put on cat owners because it was in cats' natures to be "serious hunters", Collins said.

A similar approach has been proposed on Stewart Island, where the Predator Free Rakiura Governance Group is working to protect native wildlife.

In October, Stewart Island representative for the group Sandy King said cats would not be banned from the island but would need to be desexed and kept inside.

A National Policy Direction for Pest Management has been developed to guide regional plans, with 11 pests identified by regional councils as a common problem.

The deadline for feedback is March 31. The information received will be collated and considered, and a draft plan prepared for public consultation.

 - Stuff

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