Proposed Changes To Dog Off Lead Areas at Boat Harbour

A group of off lead dog walkers on the headland where off lead areas are under review.

 

DOGS are a part of many families here in Port Stephens.

We have big dogs, small dogs and active dogs and they all enjoy getting out for a walk.

The RSPCA tells us that there are 29 million pets in Australia and 61% of households have a pet and 38% of those are dog owners.

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Residents in and around Anna Bay and Boat Harbour are not all convinced about proposed changes to dog off-lead areas which Council is proposing.

Kelly Hammond told News Of The Area, “Council is proposing to remove most of the off-lead area at Iluka Reserve in Boat Harbour.

“This major change was not discussed during consultation and has come completely unexpected by the community.”

Hammond went on to say the proposed changes have been sent out in the survey format by Council under the title of Have Your Say!

“It is difficult to make informed decisions without the facts, 400 people completed the survey before Council respectfully added more information.”

At Iluka Reserve, perhaps more than anywhere else in Port Stephens, there is a space for contemplation, with Port Stephens Suicide Prevention Network having created a space for those in need.

She believes that the local dog walkers have felt part of this and support the space.

“It’s common knowledge dogs positively impact the mental health and wellbeing of their owners.

“If Council has a clear vision or reason for stopping dogs off leash, please be transparent,” said Hammond.

Alison Duxbury, local resident and veterinary nurse said, “To some people their dogs are their only companions.

“By denying dogs to be off-leash at boat harbour, you are denying the exercise and special interaction between these owners and their companions and other dog owners they may meet that could save a life,” she said.

Councillor Sarah Smith stated, “I know there has been a lot of community feedback about the survey already which is positive.

“The intent of the review was always to improve signage, access and information for dog owners and non dog owners so that everyone can enjoy our beautiful beaches,” she said.

Council has stated that the narrow trails such as those on the South headland are not suitable for off lead use due to; frequent blind spots where owners are unable to maintain visual contact with their pet; heightened risk of conflict between dogs due to narrow trails; heightened risk of conflict between walkers and dogs as they must pass in close proximity to each other; and the risk of conflict is expected to increase once the proposed Tomaree Coastal Walk is complete.

Furthermore, according to Council the South headland contains valuable vegetation communities and habitat for threatened species to which dogs present a risk to the natural environment if uncontrolled.

 

By Marian SAMPSON

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