Roaming domestic cats are a threat to the biodiversity of the ACT and are at risk of being injured through car strike or fighting (see Pets not Pests: Cats and wildlife in the ACT)
This threat to native wildlife is recognised through provisions in the Domestic Animals Act 2000 which allow for areas to be declared cat containment if the Minister believes cats pose a serious threat to flora or fauna in that area. The Conservation Council believes the Act is not being effectively utilised to protect the wildlife of the ACT. Specifically we are concerned regarding the lack of action in declaring cat containment areas in new urban development areas in a timely manner and to put in places processes to enable declaring all of Canberra cat containment by 2025.
The cat containment declaration timeline below shows there has been little strategic action to implement cat containment areas in new urban development areas despite this being ACT Government policy, ACT Greens policy and with a Greens Minister with capacity for making declarations.
Over the last few years different suburbs have been declared at different stages of development, in some cases, such as happened in Crace in 2011, once land sales have already commenced. Casey, which is very close to the new Kinlyside nature reserve, has some residents yet is undeclared, Jacka South has residents and is undeclared, Moncrieff land sales are taking place and it is still undeclared.
Both the Molonglo Valley plan for the protection of matters of national environmental significance (Molonglo NES Plan 2011) and the Gungahlin Strategic Assessment Biodiversity Plan 2013 commit to cat containment as part of the conditions of approval for urban development in order to protect Matters of National Environmental Significance.
These commitments are not up for consideration. They have been clearly made in public documents and are legal obligations. Our view is that these new urban development areas should be declared – not suburb by suburb, but through a strategic overarching declaration which makes it clear to the community and future buyers once and for all, that all future urban areas near nature reserves are cat containment areas and cat owners have legal obligations to consider before they purchase. In the case of Forde and Bonner, the first cat containment suburbs in the ACT, the developers and lands sales people found that it was a positive selling point that the areas were to be cat containment.