Mandurah councillor lobbies to change national laws on feral cats after mass bird killing

A city councillor shocked by a mass killing of endangered birds in Mandurah has urged fellow elected members to lobby for changes to federal, state and local laws to combat the devastating effects feral cats have on the environment.

“We have a responsibility to act” was the chamber cry City of Mandurah’s deputy mayor Caroline Knight voiced to councillors during a motion she raised at their January 29 meeting.

The motion was put forward in response to the deaths of dozens of fairy terns at a local sanctuary in December 2018.

Among the raft of changes Ms Knight proposed was a pitch to lobby for the inclusion of feral cats on the Biosecurity and Agriculture Management Act.

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This was a sentiment echoed by local environmental advocacy group Peel Harvey Catchment Council.  

For several years, the organisation has pushed for feral cats to be declared pests, which has included putting pressure on various state government departments and ministers.

Ms Knight said something had to be done to stop the issue and all local governments should be on board.

“There were positives out of the Fairy Tern Sanctuary project but the impact of a cat on the successful nesting has highlighted a concern that many have about the protection of native species from cats,” she said.

“This motion is to explore options that will result in real improvements in environmental outcomes for our most threatened fauna.”

We need an evidence-based, practical approach that will deliver improvements.

City of Mandurah’s deputy mayor Caroline Knight

One of her proposals was to collaborate with Western Australian Local Government Association and other cities and shires to generate a new local law that would be “practical and effective for real improvements to environmental outcomes”.

“We need an evidence-based, practical approach that will deliver improvements,” Ms Knight said.

She also pushed for a review of the City of Mandurah's Cat Management Program and an investigation into the Fairy Tern Sanctuary project.

Ms Knight said the city also needed to review and explore mitigation tactics and suggested the establishment of a working group made up of relevant stakeholders.

Mandurah Environmental Advisory Group, Peel Harvey Biosecurity Group, Peel Harvey Catchment Council, the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions and the city’s elected representatives when mentioned as possible bodies to forge that group.

“As part of our community’s drive to protect our natural environment, the issue of cats and their impact on the environment ought to be considered,” Ms Knight said.

Fairy terns. Photo: Cherilyn Corker.

Fairy terns. Photo: Cherilyn Corker.

“It is proposed that the working group will focus on immediate actions, which the City could undertake to assist in the improvement of cat management within Mandurah with a focus on protecting our natural environment.”

Councillors showed unanimous support for Ms Knight’s motion, particularly, Coastal Ward councillor Fred Riebeling who had previously spoken out on the issue.

Mr Riebeling congratulated Ms Knight on her boldness to act on the issue and labelled feral cats as a “terrible risk to our natural environment”.

“ I think what we witnessed before Christmas is just an example of what cats can do. Cats are the biggest challenge to our local native animals,” he said.

“I hope we end up with a much stronger way of combating [this issue].”

To view the motion, visit he City of Mandurah website or click here

Follow Caitlyn Rintoul on Twitter @caitlynrintoul