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Seagull poop hits fan in feeding row

By John Cousins -
George Shaw and his dog wait for seagulls to fly in for their regular afternoon snack of diced dog roll and mince. Photo / Andrew Warner
George Shaw and his dog wait for seagulls to fly in for their regular afternoon snack of diced dog roll and mince. Photo / Andrew Warner

A Tauranga pensioner who took pity on sick and injured seagulls has stirred up a rebellion among neighbours tired of their washing and homes being splattered with bird poop.

George Shaw hand-feeds up to 50 gulls a day from the first-floor balcony of his 14th Ave home and says the problem is not as bad as some of his neighbours make out.

"I don't intend to stop doing it," he said.

But the residents, led by Bill Humphrey, complained the nuisance had become unbearable, with "acidic excrement" peppering their washing, cars, footpaths and roofs.

However, the issue could soon go away because Mr Shaw has decided to downsize and put his home on the market.

But not before the neighbours took their grievances to the Tauranga City Council yesterday, drawing a sympathetic response from councillors and a pledge to look at taking action.

"It is obviously an intolerable situation. What is our legal position and options," Councillor Terry Molloy asked.

Mr Humphrey, armed with a 32-signature petition, spelled out the problems, including screeching and the potential to attract rats when they dropped their food.

He said a woman renting nearby had feared so much for the health of her crawling baby that she shifted.

He asked the council to prohibit the feeding of gulls in residential areas.

"The birds are common carriers of bacterial, viral and fungal pathogens, mites, lice and other parasites."

Mr Shaw told the Bay of Plenty Times that one neighbour, on a rare occasion, may have had droppings on washing, but he doubted it affected his two closest neighbours because of where trees grew.

"Most of the petitioners are not affected."

And because the hand-fed birds usually swallowed the food immediately, he disputed he was creating a rat problem. "Occasionally they will fly off with something I have thrown to them."

Mr Shaw said two visits by health inspectors had failed to find a problem.

He enjoyed helping feed injured and handicapped birds. It had begun eight years ago when a gull being fed by a woman in Cameron Rd took a liking to his fishing scraps.

Mr Shaw then took sympathy on two gulls who limped around on stumps after their legs had become snarled in fishing line: "They had offspring and brought them back, and they brought their mates and word got around the gull community. I got all the waifs and strays."

Others had fishing line around their feet and he was able to get them tame enough to cut the line. He had also removed hooks from throats.

Mr Shaw fed about 25 birds each morning and afternoon session, giving them chicken hearts, mince and diced dog roll.

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