Bay Bush Action undeterred

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Environmental group Bay Bush Action is standing by its view that a stray cat colony shouldn't be allowed in Paihia, despite an outcry from cat lovers worldwide.

The deadline for the volunteer group led by 86-year-old Betty Chapman to stop feeding cats on the Williams House historic reserve in central Paihia passed on Monday, while last month the Bay of Islands-Whangaroa Community Board ordered that the feeding station be removed.

The colony, believed to number about 10 cats, has been fed by volunteers since 2004. At the time the Bay of Islands SPCA was unable to rehome them.

The decision to put a stop to feeding the cats on council land sparked an international email campaign by cat groups, which reached such a pitch that at least two board members complained to police.

Bay of Islands SPCA manager John Logie met Far North District Council in-house lawyer John Verry on Friday in a bid to persuade the council to reverse the community board's decision. As of yesterday morning there had been no response from the council.

Bay Bush Action trustee Craig Salmon said the simple solution was for the SPCA to pick up the cats and re-home them, as they had done with hundreds of other cats.

"If they cannot be re-homed, they should not be then returned to the environment," he said.

"We believe the cats should be in living rooms, lying around hot fires and getting cuddles this winter, not living in the drains around Paihia."

Bay Bush Action was not the first group to raise concerns about the cat colony, which had sparked a number of complaints to the council over the years, he added.

Nor was the practice of trapping, neutering and releasing strays, as practised in Paihia, supported by all animal welfare groups. Nelson SPCA, for example, did not support trap-neuter-return programmes because it believed releasing companion animals back to the wild, to marginal care, was contrary to the Animal Welfare Act.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) did not support cat colonies where there was a risk to the cats or to wildlife.

Mr Salmon said one of the main purposes of the Reserves Act was to ensure, as far as possible, the survival of native plants and animals in their natural state.

"We stand by our view that this feral cat colony poses a risk to our precious native wildlife on the Village Green," he said.

"We have the support of the New Zealand Kiwi Foundation, Forest and Bird and many other local conservation groups."

Birds seen in the area around the Village Green included the kukupa, which played a vital role in forests' survival because it was the only bird able to spread seeds of trees such as the karaka, and the endangered New Zealand dotterel. Only 1700 dotterel remained in New Zealand, about 50 of which visited Paihia; a few had been spotted on the beach on Sunday.

- Northland Age

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