While possums are the priority for Predator Free Hawke's Bay's efforts on the Mahia Peninsula, feral cats will also be in their sights along with stoats and rats.

Hawke's Bay Regional Council biosecurity manager Campbell Leckie said feral cats had a massive impact on biodiversity.

"Over 26,000ha of predator control done through the Cape to City project in the last two years, for every stoat or ferret we are catching we are getting six to eight feral cats."

He said while they were a significant issue they brought challenges in terms of ensuring domestic animals were not affected by any pest control measures.


"Really it's about responsible cat ownership - making sure they are de-sexed if they are not going to be bred from, and microchipping."

In February this year a new bylaw was introduced in Wellington requiring all domestic cats over the age of 12 weeks to be microchipped and registered with the NZ Companion Animal Register.

One area of benefit would be the ability for people dealing with stray cats to identify whether an animal was domestic and return it to its owner.

Such a bylaw was not currently being contemplated by Hawke's Bay's local authorities, but they were conscious of Wellington's initiative. There was also a Local Government NZ remit on the table calling for the Government to develop national legislation including provision for cost recovery for cat management.

Proposed by the Dunedin City Council with 51 per cent of other councils in favour, the remit noted that throughout New Zealand councils were tasked with trying to promote responsible cat ownership and reduce their environmental impact on wildlife, including native birds and geckos.

"Yet, territorial authorities' powers for cats are for minimising the impact on people's health and wellbeing, and regional councils' powers are restricted to destruction of feral cats as pests.

"The remit seeks the protection of our wildlife and native species by seeking regulatory powers for cat control, including cat identification, cat de-sexing and responsible cat ownership."

Wairoa District Council bylaw enforcement team leader Paul van Dorrestein said the situation with stray cats was a complex one for councils.


Unlike the Dog Control Act, there was no specific legislation that gave councils the authority to assist the community in managing issues created by stray cats.

"Stray cats are not officially classed as pests, and are treated differently to feral cats.

"The Department of Conservation says strays are not their responsibility while feral cats are.

"At present, much of the work dealing with stray cats is left to volunteer groups, with councils offering limited support as we have no authority in this area."

He said, however, that councils tried to work with the community and other relevant stakeholders to look at education and at Wairoa the council offered a cat trap service.

People could use the traps for a refundable deposit of $50, but the service wasn't without issues.

"People are using the cat trap service, but when they take a cat that has been trapped to the vets, it is identified as a pet, rather than a stray. So microchipping is a good idea in this instance so that owners can be identified."

Other councils echoed the advice to microchip pet cats, although not necessarily looking at introducing bylaws making it compulsory.

A Hastings District Council spokesperson said it would be difficult as for a bylaw to be enforceable, the council would have to show there was a real issue that needed addressing in terms of the management of pet cats.

"Council would encourage owners to have the cats microchipped through their vets - if a cat gets lost or found, it is much easier to reunite it with the owner."

Central Hawke's Bay District Council chief executive Monique Davidson said the council reviewed a number of its bylaws last year including dog control and other animals.

She said a few submissions came through suggesting the council look at compulsory microchipping, but more information would be needed, and it could be looked at the next time the bylaws were being reviewed.

"We are very conscious Wellington have done it and there is also the remit that LGNZ passed - under the new Government with a wider focus on conservation and being predator free the issue may get more traction."