CATS of Omaui took centre-stage during a two day hearing this week about the proposed Southland Environment Pest Management Plan with many residents from the small community stating their opposition.
According to the plan, Omaui residents will have to have their cats neutered and microchipped. They will then not be allowed to replace their cats when they die.
The Omaui Landcare Trust was accused of trying to foist the cat ban on other residents.
Omaui resident Jenna Horrell, one of 47 residents who signed a written submission against the cat ban, said the proposed plan had caused a lot of stress in the community and Environment Southland had not provided any research to prove cats were the main problem.
“When did New Zealand become a dictatorship? When did education and consultation become a thing from the past? Why has our small coastal town been thrown to the wolves… or in our case, to the rats, possums and ferrets?”
Those who spoke against the ban complained of the lack of communication and information.
Another resident, Nico Jarvis said the community only became aware of the matter following the media reports on the proposal.
Residents also expressed opposition to the granting of compulsory access to their homes to unknown officials, saying it put residents at risk.
Environmental consultant Bill Chisholm told the hearing making Omaui cat-free could lead to an increase in rats. “The basis for this [proposal] is that cats are known to predate on birds, so therefore they must be controlled. The document ignores the threats posed by upsetting the current ecological balance, and threats posed by other introduced predators, namely mustelids, hedgehogs and rats.”
While some residents were opposed to the Omaui ban, the Stewart Island/Rakiura Community and Environment Trust Pest manager William Gamble said cats were causing damage on the island. He recommended feral cats be treated as pests and pet cats should have a visual identifier on them as well as a microchip.