Pet lovers are expected to mount nationwide protests with the news that the Preservation of Indigenous Animal Species Bill will be pushed through Parliament in the next few days.
The controversial bill has provisions which allow for the progressive eradication of all exotic animals which includes cats, dogs, budgies and horses.
Domestic chickens and ducks will also be eradicated and only those in officially sanctioned and monitored farms will be allowed to survive and breed in rigidly controlled isolation.
While many pet owners have been taken by surprise at the speed with which the bill has appeared before the House, supporters say the necessary consultative process was followed scrupulously and that legislation is necessary to protect native animals.
“New Zealand is overrun with exotic animals and pets,” says zoologist Dr Roy Armstrong, “and rare native species are threatened with extinction by this hostile environment.
“What people don’t understand is that the ecosystem in this country is highly fragile and just one feral cat -- or even a young domesticated one -- can take at least a dozen native birds in a single month.
“Multiply that by thousands, and hundreds of thousands, and you can see the problem.
“It is not a solution anyone enjoys, but the eradication of domestic pets is an essential first step in ensuring the survival of native species. After that has been achieved, and I think the projection that all cats, dogs and horses will be gone by the end of 2007 is quite achievable, then we can move on to cattle, sheep and rabbits.”
Support for the Bill -- brought to the house by Green List MP Valerie Kingwoman -- has also come from those concerned with border bio-security.
In the past decade it is believed 42 new species of spiders arrived in the country, usually in containers from Australia, and fears about the bird-borne avian flu and “Mad Cow” disease have also fuelled calls for the eradication of all exotic species.
It is believed the first effect of the bill will be the compulsory acquisition of all domestic animals which will be terminated through special units local councils will establish with a $32 million seeding grant from the government.
The Minister for the Environment and Whale-Watching Stephen Palmer said last week the new bill was a natural consequence of the measures currently being taken against pest plants and weeds which has seen the banning from sale of various kinds of palms, those pretty agapanthus on roadsides and in gardens, and noxious weeds such as old man’s beard.
“If we are going to pay full respect to the native fauna and flora of Aotearoa then these are essential measures. There will be a bedding-in period when it comes to the compulsory acquisition of all domestic pets but after that time we will prosecute to the full extent of the law anyone caught harbouring offending animals like kittens, puppies, guinea pigs, horses and so on.”
Support for the move against imported plants and animals -- which have been declared illegal under new provisions in the amended Biosecurity Act passed last month -- has come from some unexpected quarters.
In a meeting at the Orewa Lions Club on Saturday prominent members of National, New Zealand First and the National Front were quick to suggest the provisions of the bill be extended to members of exotic immigrant communities.
“Some will call this racist I am sure,” said one member of New Zealand’s National Front who did not want to be identified, “but you have to look at these things in a cool and logical manner.
“The exotic plants were a problem so we ripped them out, and the exotic animals are a menace so we have procedures in place for their humane eradication. The tell-on-a-traitor campaign worked well in the plants issue and we had any number of people coming forward to identify neighbours, friends or family members who still had a phoenix palm or English ivy in their gardens.
“It was especially gratifying that children were prepared to inform the authorities if their parents or caregivers were offending in this manner.
“I am sure the same patriotic energy will apply to the eradication of noxious imported animals, and immigrants.
“Given the right set of social conditions -- and targeted education of the young -- we could quickly identify and isolate migrant communities and then formulate a humane series of protocols for their deportation.
"Or whatever other procedure we deem necessary at that time to deal with them.”