Make Wellington cat-free to reintroduce kiwis - Eugenie Sage

Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage wants Kiwis to be reintroduced to urban Wellington - and she's suggested locals should stop owning cats in order to achieve the goal.

The community collective Predator Free Miramar, led by Dan Henry, is having success - with backyard traps making a big dent in the pest population.

"We've caught 1500 rats in a year, and another 1450 mice," Mr Henry says.

But the Conservation Minister has suggested there's another predator that needs to be dealt with: cats.

"I think gradually we'll see people recognise that having wildlife thrive will mean having cats inside - and when your cat dies, then potentially not replacing it."

Her comments echo the results of a recent Otago University survey, which found domestic pets like cats pose a challenge to restoring native species.

They're also in-line with comments by former The Opportunities Party (TOP) leader Gareth Morgan, who called cats "natural-born killers" that need to be wiped out.

Ms Sage believes people have a tough decision to make.

"Often people have a choice. Is it the native birds and wildlife, like the lizards, insects they want to thrive? Or is it the cat?"

Her comments came as she announced more than $3 million in funding to groups aiming to make the capital predator-free, with the ambitious goal of bringing kiwis back to urban Wellington.

"It's not about turning the clock back to the 1800s," says Predator Free Wellington profject director James Willcocks.

"It's about demonstrating we can live in a city, have pets, with a flourishing biodiversity."

So is it wild kiwis or cats? The Conservation Minister is backing kiwis, but the public's choice will likely be a bit more contentious.