Australia is one of the most biodiverse nations on Earth, hosting an immense range of native species. The arrival of Europeans to Australian shores, however, heralded the introduction of species foreign to Australia, including cats. More than 6.5 million cats are now present across some 99.3% of the Australian landmass, and have had a pervasive and harmful impact on Australian wildlife.
The Committee’s inquiry sought to examine the prevalence and impact of feral, stray and domestic cats, and the effectiveness of various legislative, regulatory and collaborative responses across Australian jurisdictions. We reached six broad recommendations, which are set out in this report.
The Committee recommends that a body of work be conducted to improve understanding of cat impacts, including through the development of a nationally consistent definition for feral, stray and domestic cats; and commissioning further research in areas such as the prevalence, impact and control of cats, management of cat-borne diseases, and the relationship between cat predation and habitat degradation.
The Committee recommends a ‘reset’ of the Australian Government’s current policy, planning and resourcing in relation to the feral cat problem. This requires a new iteration of the Threat Abatement Plan for feral cats; a revised Threatened Species Strategy (currently under consultation); and consideration of the reform opportunities identified through the current review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.
The Committee has also recommended strengthened governance and collaboration frameworks between Commonwealth, State, Territory and local governments to underpin new strategies for the control of feral, stray and domestic cats.
Among various approaches to protect native species from cat predation, there is no single solution. The Committee nevertheless concluded that predator-free fenced areas and islands can be a particularly effective short- and medium-term response, pending the greater viability of emerging cat control technologies.
The Committee has therefore recommended a significant expansion of these feral-free areas across a range of ecosystems, under a new conservation mission to be called Project Noah. This should be spearheaded by the Australian Government, in partnership with communities, the private sector and philanthropic groups where possible. Project Noah should be based on proven models, and be ambitious in its scale.
I would like to thank all those who contributed to the inquiry, including the many individuals and organisations who made submissions and participated in public hearings.
I would also like to acknowledge my fellow Committee members who worked collaboratively to develop a report focussed on proposing positive solutions to a complex and longstanding problem. We urge the Government to seriously consider the recommendations in this report, in order to better address the urgent threat to Australia’s wildlife posed by feral, stray and domestic cats.
Ted O’Brien MP

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