Wellington Scoop

Hidden agenda over cat bylaw

One of our wellington.scoop informers has given us the Wellington City Council’s own legal opinion on whether they have the powers to control cats. The short answer: maybe. But buried in the legalese is the bombshell of the council’s anti-cat crusade – they have been seeking advice about whether reserves can be set up as “kill zones” for unidentified moggies.

Like all legal opinions, the advice from Wellington law firm DLA Piper is hedged around with caveats. They think the council might be able to control cats in order to protect wildlife, but they caution there needs to be some evidence that microchipping or collars would actually prevent bird deaths. And as we’ve pointed out before, the evidence seems sadly lacking.

But leaving aside the fate of the birds, it’s the fate of the cats that is more cause for concern. The council asked DLA Piper to advise on whether they could regulate domestic and feral cats on reserves under the Reserves Act, and here’s what the lawyers had to say:

Council do not have the power, under the Reserves Act, to require cats on a reserve to be identifiable. They do however, have recourse if cats found on the reserve are not identifiable under the Reserves Act. Council could advertise this ability by stating that cats are required to be easily identifiable and that if a cat is not wearing a collar and/or have a microchip then a Cat found on a reserve may be seized and
disposed of if there is no reputed owner.

This appears to mean that cats – who aren’t able to be easily confined to an owner’s property, and who aren’t that flash at reading council signs – run the risk of being trapped if they venture on to council reserves such as the Town Belt. And if their collars have come off or their microchip can’t be read, it’s curtains for Moonbeam .

Concerningly, the council also appears interested in delegating this trapping-and-extermination to amateur groups. According to the DLA Piper legal advice:

Where a cat does not have a reputed owner then a person specifically authorised in writing by the Council can seize a cat trespassing on a reserve. The cat is then deemed to be forfeited to the Council and the Council can cause the cat to be destroyed, sold or otherwise disposed of as it thinks fit. (Emphasis ours)

Animal activists have been worried for some time that the council’s real agenda was to open the door for groups such as the Morgan Foundation and the Polhill Restoration Trust to conduct open warfare on the capital’s cats. Their concerns have been airily dismissed by Environment Committee chair Iona Pannett, but it now seems that they may have been right all along. After all, if the council had no desire to let the anti-cat brigade conduct open season on council reserves, why did they seek legal advice on the matter?

Interestingly, this has only come to light the day before councillors are due to vote on the bylaw, despite the fact that the legal opinion was written back in February. The email to councillors with the legal opinion in it appears to have only been sent yesterday. So it appears the self-described toxic culture at the council is alive and well – as Ian Apperley has pointed out, mayor Wade-Brown and chief executive Kevin Lavery seem to have locked down access to council staff, which must make it hard for elected members to find out what the real agenda is.

But now we know. The capital’s moggies are definitely in the council’s sights.

Read also
Feline Rights group criticises cat bylaw proposal
It’s now compulsory to microchip cats


  1. Mosey, 3. August 2016, 17:37

    This is so worrying. Do the Mayor and her intrepid Deputy know what Iona has been planning? If not is this not more evidence of dysfunction and poor leadership at the top? We need a Mayor who can rebuild a team and who can deliver effective leadership.

  2. Warren, 3. August 2016, 17:58

    Presumably these roaming council cat capturers will have to bag every cat because there is no way of knowing whether or not the cat is microchipped? Cats roam and so every cat in a public zone (reserves but what about footpaths etc down the track) could potentially be trapped and taken away for processing by the council’s new microchip scanner department. I can’t imagine the stress this will cause those for whom their pet cat is a companion – the elderly etc. This feels like it is being pushed ahead without thinking through all the implications and costs. Sound familiar? Another cycleway looms.

  3. Charlotte, 3. August 2016, 19:11

    Word is that Iona is on the warpath phoning up fellow councillors.

  4. Trevor Hughes, 3. August 2016, 19:55

    Well this is simply disgusting. The DLA advice is in my view precarious in any case but the Greens’ agenda is reminiscent of Pol Pot and his killing fields. Wake up Wellington!

  5. Curtis Antony Nixon, 3. August 2016, 20:42

    Wellington.scoop seems to be turning into a gossip sheet. Who is PCGM and why is he, she or they given endless space to write these speculative and biased anti-council tirades? I thought you were better than that. Is it time for me to delete the scoop bookmark from my browser?

  6. time for change, 3. August 2016, 21:51

    Unbelievable that a pretty minor matter such as this is being so poorly managed by the council leadership, once again crowding out the sound economic progress and good news emerging from Wellington business.

  7. RS, 3. August 2016, 22:08

    For Pete’s sake, let’s get cats under control. Roaming cats are not compatible with healthy native bird populations. And for those who say well-fed cats don’t kill birds, I found a cat vomit 1/2 full of cat biscuits and 1/2 full of fantail. Yip.

  8. Colvin, 4. August 2016, 14:41

    Not surprising WCC voted for microchipping cats considering councilors voting for it included: Paul Eagle, Malcolm Sparrow & Mark Peck. [via twitter]

  9. Wellington Transport, 4. August 2016, 14:47

    It would be far more effective to microchip our mayor and councillors than Wellington’s felines. [via twitter]

  10. Ian Apperley, 4. August 2016, 16:20

    Truth hurts Curtis.

  11. Sekhmet Bast Ra, 4. August 2016, 16:59

    We have posted the leaked documents in their entirety on our website. Links are at the bottom of the press release dated 3rd August. Download them now and share them with everyone who is interested. Our understanding is there could well be more to come.

    To Warren: Right you are, to quote from our submission to WCC, “Even if your Cat returns a positive identification it is still likely to suffer lasting trauma from being trapped and then mishandled by disrespectful cruel people who do not know how to handle Cats”.

    To Charlotte: I bet Iona is on the warpath. So are we.

    To Trevor Hughes: You got it, Pol Pot is but one comparison.

    To Curtis Antony Nixon: If you delete the bookmark you will have to type the url each time. While we may not all agree with every article and comment, who amongst us regulars could go without our daily visit to Wellington Scoop?

    Councillors who voted against the bylaw, and in favor of the Cats and common sense

    Nicola Young, Helene Ritchie, Jo Coughlan

    We thank the councillors who voted against the bylaw and for common sense.

  12. Andrew, 4. August 2016, 17:08

    Thanks PCGM, you confirmed my suspicion. It must be cold in Island Bay in a southerly.

  13. Sue, 5. August 2016, 10:34

    Cats have every right to live, just like all other creatures. Our species loves to kill and we have a forest of human hunters in NZ. Leave the cats alone, unless you want to stop eating animal products yourselves! And if there should be proven any necessity to minimise any creatures’ numbers, we should be doing it with contraception, not cruelty. Wake up and evolve, councillors.

  14. Trevor Hughes, 6. August 2016, 16:19

    If the Morgan Foundation were really serious about protecting native birds rather than persecuting cats they would attack the practice of muttonbirding. Every year tens of thousands of sooty shearwater chicks are dragged from their burrows on New Zealand’s offshore islands and slaughtered under customary rights. Their carcasses are then sold commercially. Breeding has dropped away alarmingly so that the birds are increasingly threatened as a species. These birds make an amazing migration to the North Pacific which is one of the wonders of nature. The New Zealand slaughter is an international disgrace. Go to it Gareth, you will have our full support on this!

  15. paul estoc, 9. August 2016, 14:05

    Wake up Wellington, Wake up NZ. Cats can be kept as house cats – safely and easily. If you really must let your little furry sociopath roam, bring it in at night and limit its ability to kill and maim. Sydneysiders have been living with the reality of a cat-kill-zone in the national parks for years and they still have cats, love cats and keep cats. They just keep them under control to save the wildlife