DESPITE the good intentions the Port of Newcastle (PoN) must have had when it ordered a cull of cats from the Stockton breakwall, the outcome has been a public relations disaster of some magnitude.
Today, Animal Justice Party MLC Emma Hurst is scheduled to lead a noon protest outside PoN's head offices on Wharf Road, Newcastle.
The involvement of Ms Hurst elevates the cat cull from something that PoN management may have hoped to manage locally, to something the animal rights activist may well raise in state parliament when sittings resume next month.
THE STORY SO FAR:
The RSPCA has already launched an investigation, and in this age of social media, a petition on the change.org website - titled Stop Killing the Stockton Breakwall Cats - had more than 13,200 signatures last night on its way to stated target of 15,000.
Despite a fair bit of negative publicity, the port does not appear interested in changing its perspective on the Stockton cats, saying yesterday that while the protesters were free to "express their views", it was still looking to remove all of the cats from the breakwall.
In a comment that perhaps, as much as anything, goes to the heart of the matter, the port said it was "seeking to meet with Stockton community leaders and representatives of other relevant stakeholder groups".
For their part, the organisers of today's protest insist the port did not consult with them or notify them of any concerns about the cats.
The port may say it did not know the cats were being cared for - even if informally - but there is an argument to say it had an obligation to check with "the locals" before acting as it did.
As a result of the way things have turned out, port management have had little choice but to apologise for the situation.
But to refer to the botched cat shooting by saying that "elements of the activity did not meet our expectations nor align with our values as an organisation" reads more like a legal obligation than an apology from the heart.
In most circumstances, stray cats are legitimately viewed as a threat to native wildlife, but Stockton is hardly pristine wilderness.
A cull might prove a temporary "fix" from PoN's perspective, but cats will haunt breakwalls as long as there are water rats and other vermin to feed on.
Debate will continue but one policy might simply be to live and let live.
IN THE NEWS:
IN THE NEWS: