Environment Southland wants to protect the native wildlife in the small village of Omaui in New Zealand and they have come up with a plan to stop cats from killing protected birds. The proposal is to ban pet cats from the area.

Cat owners in Omaui would initially be forced to microchip, register and neuter their pets. When their cat passes away, they will be prevented from replacing the cat.

Omaui as a ‘police state’

Local residents have their claws out against the local council and have said it is like a “police state.” However, many small native birds live in the surrounding forest and lowland around Omaui, including the brown creeper, fantail, shining cuckoo kingfisher and grey warbler.

There are also larger species, including the tui.

Speaking to Newshub, Ali Meade, the biosecurity operations manager, said that pet cats are entering the native bush and preying on the native birds. Meade added that they are also killing insects, reptiles and many other small animals and are doing a lot of damage to the environment.

Submissions relating to the Southland regional pest management plan can be submitted up until 23 October. However, residents are already planning a petition against the cat ban.

The Otago Daily Times quotes Nico Jarvis as saying having three cats in the home is the only method of managing rat infestations in Omaui. Jarvis said if she can’t own a cat, living in her house would become “unhealthy” for her.

Nico said she regularly traps and poisons the rodents, but more keep coming into the home from the surrounding bush.

Jarvis said they chew their way into your home and it is difficult to get rid of them. She said the local community did understand the need for conservation, but in the long term, proposals like this are not something even non-cat owners would be comfortable with. Jarvis added that it is like a “police state.”

Wildlife-rich area

Not everyone agrees with Jarvis on the matter, with John Collins.

Chairman of the Omaui Landcare Charitable Trust, saying Omaui was not a place for pet cats. He said the area is a “high-value conservation area” and removing the cats would allow the native animals in the area to thrive. Collins stressed that they are not cat haters, they just want the surrounding environment to be “wildlife-rich.”

Collins added that the native wildlife is rapidly disappearing, saying that people who live there are among few that can enjoy the sound of birdsong.

Collins said he had seen native birds “ripped to pieces” by cats on his own front lawn.

Pet owners violating ban will have cats removed

Officials with Environment Southland said that if the proposals should go ahead, any pet owner violating the ban will be forced to get rid of the cat. If they don’t, officials will remove the cat from the owner as an “absolute last resort.”