Auckland Council has taken a hammering from Mahurangi residents over proposed changes to its dog management bylaw.
Local social media sites have been running hot with comments from dog owners who say the changes are unfair and do not recognise the difference between urban and rural beaches. Petitions have been circulated and when Mahurangi Matters went to press, Council had received more than 3500 submissions.
One of the major concerns dog owners have is that in Rodney, access to some beaches will be more restrictive. They say off-leash access to the beach will be restricted by a further 30-minutes a day during summer and the restrictions will last an extra month, from Labour Weekend until the end of March (summer rules).
The proposed policy has also been criticised for usurping the power of local boards to set appropriate rules in local parks on a case-by-case basis.
When the issue was discussed by the Rodney Local Board last month, Board chair Beth Houlbrooke said she was very unhappy with the bylaw consultation process, which had not provided Board members with the time to reflect local views.
The Board has reserved its right to provide feedback until after it has had an opportunity to review the public submissions, which close this Friday May 10.
Hearings will be held on June 21.
Warkworth Dog Club member Gary Martin told the Board that councils had been trying to standardise dog rules for the past 25 years.
“Our concern is that the increasing population will mean a lot more dogs and by restricting off-leash areas, there will be more problems with owners not taking their dogs out or flouting the rules,” he said.
“Council has chosen the most restrictive hours for dogs on beaches.”
The Omaha Shorebird Protection Trust wants the existing bylaws enforced.
Chair Dr Marie Ward says that at present, people with their dogs are seen where they should not be, but there is zero chance of a dog patrol officer doing anything about it.
“We have evidence of dogs inside the Omaha Shorebird sanctuary and running loose along the estuary beach where there are many signs up saying no dogs allowed,” Dr Ward says.
“We have also discussed the possibility of asking for dogs to be on-leash at all times on the Whangateau Harbour sand flats. This is because there are many hundreds of shorebirds that feed on the exposed sandflats during low tide, especially the godwits, northern NZ dotterels, banded dotterels and oystercatchers.”
At a consultation day at the Warkworth Town Hall, Michael Rennie of Matakana said it was wrong to penalise 95 per cent of dog owners for the five per cent who do not do the right thing.
“Dogs need a voice,” he said. “There should be a dedicated beach where they can go at anytime.”
Others at the town hall felt that the consultation documents were unnecessarily complicated.
Council policy manager Mike Sinclair says Council has no plans to extend the consultation process beyond the current six weeks.
“The proposed policy now clearly lists the over 1000 identified off-leash parks and reserves across Auckland, making it easier for dog owners to find places near to them where they can let their dogs run off-leash,” he says. “The 130 parks and reserves in the Rodney area that dogs are currently allowed under control off-leash are not changing and are listed in the consultation document.
“There are only 11 beaches in Rodney that are affected by time and season rules. This means the proposed changes would extend the restricted time on those 11 beaches by 30 minutes and the season by a month.
“Rodney also contains seven regional parks and large sections of coastline that are actually
Department of Conservation controlled, so dog access to a lot of the coastline is not regulated by this rule.”
The proposals do not change dogs owners’ use of the Centennial Park designated dog exercise area in Wellsford.