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Managing cats to protect diversity

Published: 27 March 2018

Pest management is an important tool for ensuring the protection of New Zealand’s biodiversity.

Pests in the Auckland region – including plant, animal and pathogen pests – and the Biosecurity Act have both changed in the past decade, so Auckland Council is looking at changing ways it manages pests too, by reviewing its 2007 Pest Management Strategy.

The proposed Regional Pest Management Plan includes plans for managing cats at sites with high biodiversity value.

Predation by cats is known to be among the key risks to the survival of numerous threatened species including black petrel, Cook’s petrel, New Zealand dotterels and juvenile kiwi. Cats are known to have already contributed to the local or complete extinction of at least nine native New Zealand birds.

“Auckland Council recognises the need to balance wildlife protection with the value cats hold as New Zealand’s most common companion animal. We know there is a lot of public support for the enhanced management of cats to help protect Auckland’s native biodiversity,” says Phil Brown, Auckland Council’s Biosecurity Manager.

“In many ways the approach in the proposed plan that will go out for consultation represents the continuation of current practice. Feral cats are already classified as pests under our existing Regional Pest Management Strategy.

“As is currently the case, cat-trapping will be well planned at specific sites of ecological significance where rats, possums and other pests are also being managed. These sites are often relatively remote such as Ark in the Park and the Hunua Ranges, or are open sanctuaries including Shakespear and Tawharanui.

“The new aspect is that we’re making it clearer when a cat found at these sites of high biodiversity value is considered a pest cat - by the absence of a microchip. Non-microchipped cats found at these sites may be euthanised, as we do with other pest animals. The council is absolutely committed to humane control methods.”

The proposed approach does not involve controlling non-microchipped cats in urban areas.

The council will not generate any revenue from any aspect of the proposed approach to managing cats.

Responsible pet ownership

The proposed plan does not involve compulsory microchipping. The council does, however, encourage voluntary microchipping as part of being a responsible pet owner.

“We all have our part to play - cat owners can help protect Auckland’s native species through responsible pet ownership, including de-sexing and microchipping their pets and keeping cats indoors at night, especially in areas close to native habitats,” says Mr Brown.

Where cat control is carried out in sites near housing, we will communicate with the local community to ensure local cat owners were aware of the intended cat control, and had reasonable time to ensure their companion animals were micro-chipped. If a local cat was already missing, there would be an opportunity to bring this to council officers’ attention.

Have your say in 2018

The proposed Regional Pest Management Plan will go out for public consultation with the council’s 10-year budget.

This will be an opportunity for Aucklanders to provide feedback on the details of the proposed approach to pest cat management, as well as management of other pests.