A report into cat management options has been prepared for the Taranaki Regional Council and its chief executive Steve Ruru. It will be presented to councillors at a meeting this week.
Taranaki Regional Council is preparing itself to tackle the “complex and contentious” issue of how to control cats.
At its policy and planning meeting on Tuesday, councillors will receive the report Review of Cat Management Options, which was authored for the council by environmental planning consultants The Place Group.
The report originated from a request by biodiversity trust, Wild for Taranaki asking the council to develop a regional strategy.
Wild for Taranaki’s members include Taranaki councils, iwi, Federated Farmers, Forest and Bird, and the Department of Conservation.
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Wild for Taranaki suggested that a regional cat management strategy would include defining what a feral cat is, as well as requiring microchipping and de-sexing. The argument for managing cats is that they kill native birds and other small animals.
The Place Group report looks at potential options to manage cats at a regional level based on recommendations made in a report by New Zealand Cat Management Strategy Group (NZCMSG) which includes Local Government NZ, SPCA and the Morgan Foundation.
The Place Group report discusses how to categorise cats such as breaking them down into feral, stray and domestic cats, as well as the feasibility of a potential program’s goals.
“While total eradication of feral cats from the region may be a strong desire, current limitations in tools, resources and funding is likely to render such an unattainable goal,” the report states.
“Determining key areas within the region containing high-value biodiversity and designing a program around protecting these areas is recommended.”
The report noted it is possible to eradicate cats from small areas such as reserves, peninsulas, or islands, but any eradication goal will be very labor-intensive.
It also looks at international literature to identify new methods or considerations that may suit Taranaki.
“Australia appears to be leading the way in innovative control options.”
Control tools used include remote trap-checking systems which use solar-powered communication boxes to send text messages if a trap goes off, and the trialling of new lures including cat urine and chicken oil.
Among the ideas listed in the ‘cutting edge’ section was “assisted evolution” which involves releasing cats into sections of predator-proof sanctuaries to accelerate natural selection and stimulate learning among native animals and genetically modifying cats to only produce male offspring.
The report presents a ten-step roadmap for developing a regional cat management strategy, beginning with undertaking a “stakeholder identification exercise”.
Under the issues section of the meeting agenda council staff wrote the control of cats was a complex and contentious issue.
“With the slightest mention of receiving heated feedback from individuals and organisations, both for and against.
“It is certain to provoke negative feedback from parts of the Taranaki community.”
Any decision to progress a Regional Cat Management Strategy will require “collective courage by all four Taranaki councils with proactive and ongoing education and communication to the wider community”, the agenda states.
“If regulation is required, then council (or others) would develop a pest management plan under the Biosecurity Act 1993 (BSA) or review the current one.”
Following the meeting the next steps for the plan will include a councillor workshop in early 2023 to review current pest management policies.