What are Wildlife Protection Areas?
Under the NSW Companion Animals Act (1998), domestic cats are permitted to freely roam onto any property, regardless of its ownership or function. The only exceptions to this provision are public areas where food preparation facilities are provided (ie. park picnic/BBQ areas) and places designated by a local Council as Wildlife Protection Areas.
Typically, Councils declare important bushland reserves or wetlands as Wildlife Protection Areas (WPA) so as to enable a greater level of protection to native wildlife from the adverse impacts of cat predation. As domestic (ie. owned) cats are prohibited from entering Wildlife Protection Areas, the onus of responsibility is placed on cat owners to prevent their charge(s) from entering these bushland reserves.
A number of Councils in the Sydney-North region, including Hornsby; Ku-ring-gai; Warringah; Pittwater; Manly and Willoughby have declared WPAs in some of their local bushland reserves. North Sydney Council's has declared five WPA bushland reserves, adding valuable protected habitat to this wider "green web" that characterises suburbs north of the harbour.
Where are North Sydney's Wildlife Protection Areas & how do they Operate?
In early 2008, a comprehensive assessment of North Sydney's birdlife was undertaken by ecological consultants Peter and Judy Smith. The subsequent Continuing Bird Survey Report indicated which Council bushland reserves currently supported the highest diversity of bird species. Particular emphasis for conservation action was placed on regionally significant species that are either listed as threatened, known to be in decline or have very specific habitat requirements.
The results of this survey work were combined with more general fauna records submitted to Council by local Wildlife Watch volunteers to prioritise certain bushland reserves as WPAs. This exercise resulted in the following reserves being declared WPAs:
• Tunks Park, Cammeray
• Gore Cove Reserve / Smoothey Park, Wollstonecraft
• Balls Head Reserve, Waverton
• Badangi Reserve, Wollstonecraft
• Primrose Park / Folly Point, Cammeray
Each reserve is signposted and neighbouring properties informed of their cat prohibited status. Community education is ongoing and the Bushland Team regularly engages with residents adjoining reserves as well as our local school communities.
Information on proven strategies that help transition domestic cats accustomed to roaming to a more confined environment is readily available on the internet. The Cat Protection Society of NSW recommends all cats be kept indoors, whilst being provided with a vibrant and stimulating environment. Doing so can result in your cat living a longer, healthier life.
Council's Bushland Management Team periodically undertakes strategic trapping programs to remove feral cats from our WPAs. If through this process a domestic cat is trapped, it’s owner will be notified with a caution reminding the owner of their responsibilities under the Companion Animals Act. Repeated failure by a cat owner to appropriately manage their pet could result in fines up to $880.
Striking the Balance
If you are a cat owner, you are obviously an animal lover. Council's adopted bushland WPA system and community education program strikes a balance between responsible cat ownership and the protection of our local native wildlife - helping to ensure healthy populations of native fauna for future generations to learn from and enjoy. If you would like more information on Wildlife Protection Areas, please contact Council's Bushland Management Coordinator on 9936 8224 during business hours.