Consultant: proposed Omaui cat ban may increase rat numbers

A proposal to make Omaui cat-free may cause more harm than good by leading to an increase in rats, a environmental consultant has said.

William Chisholm made the submission at a hearing in Invercargill for the proposed Southland Environment Pest Management Plan.

"It was noted that 1080 poisoning in the area caused a resurgence in rat numbers 18 months after poisoning. A reduction in cat numbers or complete removal of cats could have the same effect.''

Ms Chisholm, who had been invited to speak by Omaui residents William and Julie Smellie, said the proposed cat ban was based on conclusions unsupported by science, as no studies or data had been provided to support the theory that reducing cat numbers would have a beneficial effect in the area.

"The basis for this is that cats are known to predate on birds etc, so therefore they must be controlled. The document ignores the threats posed by upsetting the current ecological balance, and threats posed by other introduced predators, namely mustelids, hedgehogs and rats.''

While Mr Chisholm was opposed to a cat ban in Omaui, the Stewart Island/Rakiura Community and Environment Trust Pest Manager William Gamble said he did not have any doubt the cats were doing a lot of damage in the area.

"People said to me that they couldn't see birds but they could see cats on the trails.''

Mr Gamble recommended Environment Southland label feral cats to be pests and cats that are pets should have a visual identifier on them in addition to a microchip.

"Cats are not only a pest but are a popular pet. As a result the definition needs to be able to easily classify a cat as owned or unowned, otherwise control of cats is not feasible, especially near populated areas.''

The hearing continues today from 9am at Environment Southland's council chamber in Invercargill.

luisa.girao@odt.co.nz

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