Cat-free zone Sandy Point suggested

KIMBERLEY CRAYTON-BROWN
Last updated 05:00 05/12/2012

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An Environment Southland submission on the Invercargill City Council's Sandy Point management plan suggests banning domestic cats and replanting the forest in totara trees which could later be sold commercially.

The submission on the Invercargill City Council Sandy Point Domain Draft Management Plan, which was made on a "without prejudice" basis last month, was approved by councillors last week.

Biosecurity officer Steven Henry said cats "cleaned out everything" in the area.

"Skinks, birds, the whole works. Getting rid of them is a start and then we move down the chain to rats, etcetera."

At last week's meeting councillor Maurice Rodway said removing cats could result in an increase in rats and rabbits and banning domestic cats was unlikely to make any difference because there were so few houses in the Sandy Point area.

Mr Henry said Cr Rodway had a good point, but the "whole ecology was a complex beast".

"At the end of the day cats are extremely good predators down there."

The aim would be to get predators and pests to a low enough level that they were not causing much damage, he said.

The city council was encouraging people in its own plan to have their cats desexed and fit collars with bells on them.

However, the regional council believed they should go further, Mr Henry said.

"Putting a bell on a cat is not going to solve it."

They would recommend the cat issue be "grandfathered out", so when the current residents' cats died they would not be replaced.

Also included in the Environment Southland submission was a suggestion the pine forest areas be replanted in totara.

Mr Henry said 77 per cent of native forest had been lost from Sandy Point, and the totara grew naturally in the area.

It could be selectively logged and the timber could be sold or reused within the city's parks and reserves for posts, seats or tables, he said.

It was also hoped some of the areas would be reclassified from recreational reserve status to scenic reserve status, which would allow the focus to shift from maintaining open space to protecting and enhancing biodiversity values.

Mr Henry said that would not mean people would have to stop using the area for recreation, and the submission supported the development of further cycling opportunities.

Environment Southland was not pushing any of those ideas but were asking the council to consider them, he said.

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