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Feral . . . Wild cats, one of the biggest dangers to New Zealand’s native wildlife, are on the increase in North Canterbury thanks to the rabbit population starting to rise. FILE PHOTO

 

 

By ROBYN BRISTOW

Wild cats should be targeted in the Canterbury Regional Pest Management Plan, says the Rural Advocacy Network.

In a submission to the plan, Rural Advocacy chair Jamie McFadden says feral cats are an “unwanted” pest that are growing in number due to an increase in rabbits in the Hurunui area.

The increased rabbit population had also led to an increase in other predators such as stoats and ferrets which along with cats, killed native wildlife.

“One of the worst areas in the Cheviot area (for rabbits) is around the Hurunui Huts village and riverbeds.

“Rabbits also eat regenerating seedlings and ringbark native trees and shrubs. While rabbit numbers have significantly decreased, some urban and semi-rural areas remain a concern.”

Mr McFadden told the North Canterbury News in the past six months on the home farm, near Cheviot, 60 cats had been culled.

Three had been dropped off recently at his mother’s property.

“People drive past, see a nice spot and drop their cat off and drive away,” he says.

The concern about cats comes as some regional council’s in the greater Wellington area have feral cats listed in their pest strategy and a rule that prohibits the release of cats into the wild. The rule is supported by the Rural Advocacy group which also wants a funding split of 50-50 between land occupiers and the regional community for inspections.

The Rural Advocacy Network also submits a new concept should be introduced for gorse, broom and nassella inspections.

“Where landowners that generally have a good track record are in minor breach, they should not be issued non-compliance. Some inspectors practice this concept already.

“As an example where a landowner has missed a small number of nassella, some inspectors identify the missed areas on a map or leave a marker on a fence post, while others will issue non-compliance,” says Mr McFadden.

The submission says rivers are also becoming choked with weeds, particularly gorse and broom, compromising recreational access for fishing, swimming and kayaking.

“The spread of gorse and broom also negatively impacts on activities like biking, tramping and compromises landscape values.”

Broom and gorse spread from public land and the biodiversity impacts of the pests was understated with it taking over some hill and high country low shrublands, tussocklands and shrub subalpine vegetation.

“Broom and gorse acts as nurse plants for wilding pines which out compete all native species. These weeds also provide habitat for other pests such as cats, ferrets and possums etc,” the submission says.

“The Port Hills fires demonstrated the problem with allowing the spread of gorse and the wider community benefits of gorse control.”

The Network submitted the regional community meet 75 percent of the cost of broom and gorse inspection, with the landowner paying 25 percent.