Thursday, 22 August 2019

WHITIANGA WEATHER

TCDC now strictly enforcing dog control rules

Coromandel Peninsula residents and visitors need to be aware that Thames-Coromandel District Council is now strictly enforcing the responsibility of dog owners to keep their dogs on a lead in areas not designated as off-lead areas. For most of the year dogs are allowed to run and walk freely on the majority of the beaches in Mercury Bay.

In spring this year, council embarked on a dog control campaign called “Lead the Way.” The campaign was about educating the public about what is involved in being a responsible dog owner, including the importance of keeping your dog on a lead.

TCDC has also indicated during the campaign that they would fine dog owners $300 for any dog not on a lead in areas not designated as an off-lead area. The mechanism to issue such fines has been in place since 1996, but due to the rules previously not being strictly enforced, some dog owners in Whitianga were surprised to learn that they won’t be able to continue letting their dogs walk off-lead with them around town and on the footpath along Buffalo Beach.

The main purpose of the Lead the Way campaign, according to Brian Taylor, TCDC’s Compliance and Licensing Manager, was to make people aware of council’s rules and to encourage voluntary compliance before issuing fines.

Brian says the crack-down on dog control was influenced by public feedback about irresponsible dog owners. “Our decision was driven by the public,” says Brian. “Lately there have been a lot of complaints about dogs off their leads. These have been both formal and informal. There were official complaints directly to us at TCDC as well as a large amount of discussion on social media platforms.

“It’s also important to note that there seems to have been a shift in the public mentality about roaming dogs. People seem to have moved away from wanting to find a roaming dog’s owner to now calling council and complaining.”

Dog owners across the Coromandel are spoilt for choice when it comes to dog exercise options, with beaches where dogs are allowed to run or walk freely never too far away. However, when summer comes the TCDC Dog Control Bylaw only allows dogs off-lead on most of the beaches before 9:00am and after 6:00pm. “We’re of the view that dog owners need to understand that changes have to be made over summer to accommodate everyone, Coromandel residents and locals alike,” says Brian.

An instant fine of $300 for letting an obedient, controlled dog walk around freely seems like a hefty price to pay and it has been suggested that places such as Hahei - one of the places where dogs aren’t allowed on the beach during the day from 20 December to 31 January - need more off-lead dog exercise areas, as the beach is all there is. Many people find it hard to exercise their dog between those times while also juggling work and family life.

However, the Coromandel’s population grows enormously over summer and having uncontrollable or disobedient dogs off-lead around so many people can be risky. “The current rules and regulations in the TCDC Dog Control Bylaw are based around finding a happy medium between dogs, people and wildlife,” says Brian. “We shouldn’t forget that endangered birds like the dotterel also populate our beaches this time of year.”

For a summary of the TCDC Dog Control Bylaw, see www.tcdc.govt.nz/dogrules. Also see the TCDC dog control signs at all the beaches in Mercury Bay.

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The Mercury Bay Informer is a highly popular community newspaper, based in Whitianga. The paper is distributed throughout the Coromandel Peninsula, coast to coast from Thames to north of Colville.