The Far North District Council has waded into a dispute between a conservation group and the SPCA regarding a cat colony on a public reserve.
Ten desexed strays frequenting the Village Green in Paihia have caused much angst to the Bay Bush Action, which at one stage offered supporters $600 towards the cost of euthanising them. The group says feral cats are hard to catch and many are killing birds, geckos and other native creatures in the area, near the Paihia Fire Station.
But the Bay of Islands SPCA and a group of Paihia residents, led by Betty Chapman, who feed the cats daily, are against getting rid of them.
The Bay of Islands-Whangaroa Community Board passed a resolution in February accepting an offer by Bay Bush Action to "co-ordinate an attempt to find suitable homes for any cats from the colony that can be rehabilitated and that any remaining cats be trapped and put down humanely".
Board member Terry Greening had since given notice of a motion to revoke that resolution.
It is likely to be adopted at a board meeting in Kerikeri tomorrow.
Bay of Islands SPCA boss John Logie said he presented a proposal at the meeting for the cat colony to remain but to not get any larger. He said the strays were dumped in the area in 2004 when SPCA was struggling with resources and if they were removed, rats and other rodents would spring up.
Mr Logie's predecessor Jim Boyd said all feral cats had been desexed and vaccinated and that they did more good than harm by keeping the rodent population low. "I think people are getting extremely emotional and making a lot of noises because these stray cats are doing more good than harm," he said. Mr Logie said his organisation had no involvement with the cat colony, but it was one of several in New Zealand run by volunteers to ensure the cats remained well-fed and healthy, rather than becoming an urban problem.
Bay Bush Action said allowing a large colony of cats to remain viable in an environment shared by native species was like "a slap in the face" for volunteers trying to protect native wildlife.
Group volunteers often trapped cats among the targeted predators - possum, rats and stoats - in the Opua State Forest, local bush and the small islands off Paihia.
For more articles from this region, go to NORTHERN ADVOCATE