Councils to vote on national rules to control cats

Councils across New Zealand are set to vote on whether a national cat strategy is needed to rein in unruly moggies, including the creation of 'cat rangers'.

President of Local Government New Zealand Lawrence Yule told The AM Show current rules don't allow local councils to control cats.

He is backing a vote to legislate around what he sees as an overrun cat population.

While there are strategies around managing dogs, largely to do with safety, as well as registration and management, he said there needs to be something similar set in place for cats.

"Some councils believe that cats need to come under a strategy - maybe not identical, but some kind of strategy that works out how we can manage them, partly to support biodiversity."

Mr Yule said several councils have backed the idea as a way to support biodiversity, and that the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment did a study on biodiversity and found cats posed a "real risk to bird life, particularly in urban environments".

While he said he wasn't against cats as a rule, and has one of his own, there were a large number of feral cats with no particular home "wandering around".

But while the issue will be up for debate, at present it's not overly popular.

Local Government New Zealand oversees 78 councils, of which 70 would be a part of the regime if voted in, and so far just seven have voted in favour of the initiative.

But five votes are enough to get a proposal pushed through for debate.

It will be an interesting discussion, he said.

"It'll be one of the more lively ones we'll have. Some will support this and others won't, and there will be an electronic vote at the end which will decide the position that local government will take to the government."

But why are councils so keen to buy a fight with cat owners?

Mr Yule doesn't think they are.

"We're talking about feral or roaming cats in the community. There are too many cats, and if you talk to any SPCA they'll confirm that. Cats are prolific breeders, so it's about how we manage the population - it's not against cats at all."

But a statement from the Taxpayers Union said, "with the so-called leaders of the sector too busy talking about cat rangers to focus on New Zealand's enormous infrastructure deficit, no wonder local government is in crisis."  

Mr Yule disagreed with this, and said local government often focused on things that are important to communities.

While infrastructure is the major thing councils do, he said, "sometimes people ask for things, and in many cases councils involved in this initiative have been lobbied by members of the community and SPCA to take a stance and try develop a strategy for cats."

Councils will vote on whether to develop a national cat strategy at Local Government NZ conference on July 23.