The Waitaki District Council is compiling a report about Oamaru’s red-billed gull problems for conservation minister Eugenie Sage.
At an Otago Mayoral Forum last week, Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher raised the town’s gull issues with the minister.
The council was also seeking to use an exemption clause in the Wildlife Act to prevent the gulls from nesting in the central business district, Mr Kircher said.
The native gulls are protected under the act and, at present, once their nests are formed, it is an offence to remove them.
“The main thing is being able to remove their nests and just stop them breeding so they move on away from buildings, and we’ll certainly try to get them going to a more natural habitat,” he said.
“Local anecdotes suggest there is an increasing number of them making their homes on rooftops and creating major problems for building owners.”
In recent years, business and building owners in Oamaru have complained that the gulls nesting in the retail area were creating an unwanted disturbance, in the form of noise and excrement, despite a number of measures being employed to encourage the native birds to move on.
“All too often, we’re accused of taking habitat from wildlife
There were different theories as to why they had started nesting in town that it was connected with the closure of the landfill in 2017.
In a perfect world, humans and red-billed gulls would peacefully co-exist in Oamaru’s central business district, Mr Kircher said.
“But, at the moment, that’s certainly not the way it is,” he said.
Some people were “more than happy” to cull the gulls, but “we never want it to be at that stage”, Mr Kircher said.
It was a “useful” discussion with Ms Sage last Friday, he said.
“She’s asked for further information . . . [about] the different measures we’re trying in order to get them to move elsewhere.
“She wants to get a better feel for what ways it is a problem, and how big those problems are.
“We will also be seeking reports from business and building owners in the area about what they’ve had to do.”
In the meantime, the council would continue to support whatever legal means there were to keep the gulls away, he said.
Council staff had been working with the Department of Conservation (Doc) to find solutions to the problem, but Doc was controlled by the Wildlife Act as much as anyone else, he said.
“There are plenty of conservationists who see no problem at all having gulls in the middle of town as they are,” he said.
“The reality is it’s just causing so much damage to buildings, to businesses – it’s putting people off going to areas where there are high gull numbers and that’s not good for our town.”
Streeter Concepts owner Lance Streeter moved his signwriting business from Severn St to Coquet St after lockdown this year.
St building before the red-billed gulls made their move to the area.
He was now facing a hefty bill to install gull deterrents and for clean-up measures.
“We’re also having to look at fitting out the building and having internal access to the roof, because we have to be up on the roof every single day [clearing nest materials before nests are formed].
“You feel for everyone. You feel for Countdown, you feel for all the businesses, and it’s not good for the town, either.”
Sometimes the birds were so noisy “you can’t even hear yourself think”, he said.
Mr Streeter encouraged other businesses to report their issues to the council, which had been very helpful.
“Credit where credit’s due – the council has gone above the call of duty and I highly recommend anyone else going through this to reach out to them,” he said.
“It would be awesome if the Government or Doc could get on board.”