News of the Far North District Council removing the cat feeding shelter at Paihia may have flashed around the world faster than any new rocket put up by North Korea.
The controversial crackdown against 86-year-old Betty Chapman and her team of volunteers feeding 10 stray cats at a Paihia reserve has created an international controversy, with cat lovers around the globe so critical of the council action their vitriolic emails have drawn accusations of
Council communications officer Richard Edmondson said the feeding station was removed on Friday in accordance with a Bay of Island-Whangaroa Community Board decision last month to order Mrs Chapman and her team to remove the shelter from the Williams House Historic Reserve,
where the stray cats have been fed for the past nine years.
``My understanding is we are also removing food to discourage people from feeding cats on the reserve,'' he said.
The council had given the Bay of Islands SPCA and other cat colony supporters reasonable time to find an alternative place to feed the cats, Mr Edmondson said.
However, when he sent out a media release a fortnight ago saying the FNDC would allow time to find a new site for the shelter, Mayor Wayne Brown objected to the delay in actioning the board ruling.
In a widely distributed email, Mr Brown compared the ``idiotic'' staff decision to allow time to find an alternative site with the ``decision to take [Des] Mahoney to court then pay his legal bills.''
The mayor caned CEO David Edmunds for making a ``legal stuff-up''. He called for staff apologies to elected representatives and asked: ``Where was legal counsel to defend us when we were subjected to disgusting cyber bullying emails from cat lovers? Nowhere, that's where.''
Mr Brown could not be reached yesterday for comment on the dismantling of the shelter.
Mrs Chapman said she and her volunteers were devastated by the shelter's removal, particularly as the community board had in previous years praised their work in neutering stray cats.
She considered Bay Bush Action, a volunteer group eliminating pests in the Opua State Forest, to have had a key role in the shelter's expulsion from the reserve.
``Bay Bush has been on the scene only 18 months yet they are throwing their weight around in an urban area when they should be catching ferals (wild cats) in the Opua forest,'' Mrs Chapman said.
The 10 Paihia cats were neutered and caused no harm. They were used to being fed at the shelter and she and her volunteers wanted to see them live out their days peacefully.
``If we (the cat feeding team) are wiped more dumped cats will turn up in Paihia,'' Mrs Chapman warned.