In a radical effort to protect native wildlife, New Zealand authorities are proposing something unprecedented in our modern society: banning pet cats! Specifically, in the small coastal village of Omaui a proposal is in the works requiring current cat owners to neuter, microchip and register their pets with the local authority and according to the Environment Southland’s “pest plan”, cat owners would not be allowed to get another cat when their current cat(s) pass away!
This aggressive move comes in a dire effort from local authorities to protect 230 hectares of lowland and forest on Omauri. The area is home to quite a few native birds from small ones like the brown creeper, grey warbler, the fantail, and shining cuckoo kingfisher as well as larger birds like the tui! Local residents are outraged and have accused the local authority of acting as a "police state."
Despite the argument from cat lovers in the area, local experts are very serious about the proposal.
Speaking to Newshub, a national news outlet, biosecurity operations manager Ali Meade said, "there’s cats getting into the native bush, they’re preying on native birds, they’re taking insects, they’re taking reptiles, all sorts of things. They’re doing quite a bit of damage.”
Local residents are ready to oppose, petition, and protest the proposal.
Nico Jarvis, a local resident spoke with Otago Daily Times to say that owning a cat was necessary for managing rat infestations in the area. She said, "if I cannot have a cat, it almost becomes unhealthy for me to live in my house!"
Jarvis, along with other members of the community understand the argument for conservation but argued nonetheless, "...but I think long-term, the ramifications of this are not something that even non-cat owners will be comfortable with. It’s like a police state.”
And what happens if someone violates the ban? Environment Southland will instruct people to remove the cat but are willing to, as an "absolute last resort," remove the cat themselves.
While people like Nico Jarvis are preparing a petition, Omaui Landcare Charitable Trust chairman John Collins is in full support of the cat ban, but not because he hates cats, but Omaui is a ''high-value conservation area," and "removing cats from the area would enable native animals to thrive," because they want their local environment to "be wildlife-rich."
Submissions are open until October 23rd, but New Zealand has been very ambitious about becoming "predator-free by 2050," with plans to eradicate species of possums, stoats, and rats. Wondering what will happen to the cats in Omaui is definitely something that global cat lovers will have their eyes on for the next couple of months!