Editorial: Don't like seagulls? then eat inside

By Dylan Thorne


Al fresco diners at Mount Maunganui are having to keep one eye on their food and another on the sky.

Yesterday, the Bay of Plenty Times reported on seagulls dining out at the expense of the seaside settlement's cafe scene.

Birds at the stretch of Marine Parade that hosts several cafes and shops, have reportedly become a menace to people trying to eat there and cafe staff dealing with the mess left behind.

Cafe owners say the birds, who used to wait until the diners had left before eating their scraps, have lost their fear and are now taking bread from people's hands.

Cafe Cabana barista Luke Edmond says he's having to replace coffees and meals about three times a week because of birds swooping in and causing chaos.

One particularly brazen bird actually landed in a customer's latte, flew up, pooed on her and then flicked coffee on everyone else in the area.

Obviously these scavengers of the sky are becoming a hassle for the diners and the cafe owners - some have even taken up water pistols to try and ward off their feathered foe.

But I'm with the birds on this one. No doubt the gulls have been circling the skies in the area for generations, grabbing food where they could find and adapting their feeding habits to the ever-changing environment.

One thing they seem to have adapted particularly well to is al fresco dining.

Before the rise in popularity of cafe culture, your average Kiwi ate indoors in tearooms called "Shirley's"rather than a cafe with a foreign sounding name. They didn't know what a latte or a flat white was. The standard fare was a pie or a club sandwich with a tea or coffee, followed by a lamington or a slice.

Kiwis were infinitely practical. They didn't eat outside because - well, they would have to brave the elements and the fauna and "why on Earth would you want to do that?"

That changed toward the end of the last millennium. People started venturing outside. These pioneers were aware of the risks but they bravely went where few Kiwis had gone before. It seems we have forgotten the trade off to enjoying the sun while eating a meal.

I enjoy dining outside as much as the next person and the city's cafe culture is a major asset. It contributed to the Lonely Planet Guide describing Tauranga as being as "Riviera as New Zealand gets" but it seems odd to me people are surprised to see seagulls scavenging for food near a beach.

In my view there's an easy solution that won't require a water pistol. If you don't want to risk being dive-bombed by a seagull take your meal inside.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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