Dodging queries of double life
One council cat disappears from Stoneycroft for days on end
By LAWRENCE GULLERY
HASTINGS’ Cecily Ashton believes her feline work mate could be leading a double life.
For two years the Hastings District Council housing officer has been feeding the resident cat at the council’s Stoneycroft homestead on Omahu Rd, west of the city.
Alarm bells rang last week when the cat, Dodge, failed to respond to calls at dinner time and the four-legged friend went missing for nine days.
“On Friday I was looking at an old wood shed when she came out and wrapped herself around my legs, like she had never been away,” said Ms Ashton.
Dodge probably belonged to the previous owner of Stoneycroft, Sybil Ballantyne, before the council bought the 130-year-old Colonial building in 2005.
She is a black feline of indeterminate age, although Ms Ashton reckons Dodge could be about 5 years old.
Dodge’s disappearance was “very unusual” but Ms Ashton said she had not ruled out the possibility her purring friend had been seeking snacks from other homes.
“She had lost a bit of weight but looked good. That’s why I say she’s leading a double life, but she’s not telling me anything,” she said.
Dodge was named after another council staffer who worked at Stoneycroft more than two years ago.
“He was responsible for the care of Stoneycroft … when he went into hospital he said to me, ‘Feed the cat’, so I did. He passed away in hospital and so we decided to name the cat after him, ever [even] though it’s a guy’s name,” she said.
Dodge is one of a number of cats working for the council.
The Top Ten Holiday Park near Parkvale is home to Pumpkin and Aaron while Puss lives at nearby Splash Planet.
Aaron and Pumpkin travelled with their owner, James Houliston, from the South Island to Hastings when he took over managing the holiday park for the council. Splash Planet’s Puss enjoys the company of staff but tries to hide from the attention of visitors, often seeking shade from the hot weather by hiding under the park’s trees.
There are also a number of cats patrolling the council’s Omarunui landfill, keeping rats, mice and bird numbers under control.
Old homestead’s future not in wine
A WINE-information centre, function venue and art gallery were just some of the ideas floated for the future of the Stoneycroft homestead.
The Hastings District Council has been considering what it can do with the site since it bought it about three years ago.
The 130-year-old homestead is protected under the Historic Places Act, so any permanent activities or alterations to the building would have to be ticked off by the Historic Places Trust.
Hastings deputy Mayor Cynthia Bowers said the council was talking to a commercial user interested in moving into Stoneycroft.
“We’re just working through the options at the moment and seeing how much alternations [alterations] would need to be done. There’s not much we can say publicly until we get it worked through more,” she said.
Recently, however, the council had looked at a proposal to use it as a wine-information centre.
“But in terms of what we were allowed to do under the Historic Place Act, that one’s not a goer,” she said.
When the council dealt with its other “big ticket” items, such as Ocean Beach and Nelson Park, it would be able to devote more time to Stoneycroft, Cr Bowers said.
Photo captions –
PAWS-IBLE EFFORT: Dodge, the resident cat at Stoneycroft, Hastings, was missing in action for nine days but turned up when his feeder, Cecily Ashton, visited the Hastings District Council heritage property last week.
HAPPY CAMPER: Hastings Top Ten Holiday Park manager, James Houliston, holds Aaron, one of his two resident cats at the camp. Aaron’s mother Pumpkin, who also keeps visitors company, was too shy to appear on camera.
SPLASHY CAT: Water-friendly resident cat at Splash Planet, Puss, is held by park host, Gaylene Heremia, at the theme park in Hastings.
PICTURES: DUNCAN BROWN, PAUL TAYLOR