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Council and SPCA working with cat group

Council and SPCA working with cat group, clean up required

February 17, 2006

The North Shore City Council and SPCA are working with the group managing the Rawene cat colony in Birkenhead in an all-out effort to solve a problem that has polarised the local community.

Acting on ongoing complaints from local residents, shoppers and business people, the council has formally advised the cat minders that they need to clean up the cats’ faeces to avoid putting the neighbourhood’s health at risk.

The notice – served under the Health Act – gives the cat minders the option of rehousing the 35-50 cats that comprise the colony located at the rear area of 19 - 23 Rawene Rd, the walkway between 23 Rawene Rd and the car park.

The council’s back-up plan involves the SPCA which has offered to work with council staff and cat minders to catch and rehouse the animals.

North Shore City’s Birkenhead-Northcote customer services manager, Paul O’Brien, is dealing with SPCA boss Bob Kerridge, Regional Health Board officials and council’s environmental health team on the emotive issue that has, as the saying goes, been as easy as herding cats.

“We’ve been working through this issue for a while now and we’ve tried to be sensitive to everyone’s wishes,” Mr O’Brien says.

“We’re giving the cat minders time to address the community’s health concerns by finding a more effective way of solving the problem. We need to be reassured that this plan will work otherwise we’ll be seeking further help from the SPCA to humanely catch and rehouse the cats.”

Health experts from the council have visited the affected area three times and, on one occasion, were accompanied by a senior health protection officer from the District Health Board. They shared the view that what they saw, smelled and stepped in, posed a potential health risk.

“The breeding flies appear to be the only winners out of the current situation,” Paul O’Brien says.

“With the help of the SPCA - which has been great - and the goodwill of the cat minders, we can rehouse the cats and get the place cleaned up.”

The cat minders had proposed to the local Birkenhead-Northcote Community Board last year that they sort out the problem as a group. An audit of that plan, regrettably, revealed that the problems remained.

North Shore City’s environmental health team leader, Duffy Visser, says the concentration of faeces in the area not only stinks - it is attracting more flies by the day.

“In some areas, the faeces were not clearly visible and easily stepped on, causing it to be spread into vehicles, shops and other surrounding premises.

“Young children also have the potential to become infected orally via their hands if they visit or play in this area,” she says.

North Shore City Council is legally obliged to take steps to stop any public health nuisance in its city. It cannot ignore the issue.

ENDS

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