Dog owners may get more time on beach

It's been a busy year for Auckland dog owners trying to get a fair deal on a number of issues.

Jill Parsons, one of those leading the charge for fairness over the likes of dog fees and beach hours, says it's been a lot of work. Mrs Parsons runs Auckland Dog Friends and has become somewhat of a champion for Auckland dog owners.

"In May, 4600 submissions were received for the Auckland Council's Draft Long Term Plan over dog fees and other changes," she says. "With the support of councillors Cathy Casey and Alf Filipainia we helped repeal the dog fee increases, which had been set at almost 300 per cent."

The review of the dog Policy and Bylaws is ongoing but public deliberations on the hearing of submissions have been adjourned until October 24.

One of the issues being discussed was the hot topic of when dogs are allowed on Auckland beaches, with the legacy councils often having different rules that need to be aligned. At Milford on the North Shore, for example, dogs could not be on the beach between 10am and 6.30pm. In Rodney, it's 9am to 7pm, likewise in Manukau.

Before adjourning, the review committee decided on recommending to the governing body (Auckland Council) a regional time and season rule for all beaches in summer. That would run from Labour weekend to March 1 - with dogs prohibited from beaches between the hours of 10am and 5pm.

For most regions that's an improvement on the current regulations. Dog owners have been wanting a better deal for their pets, as the length of time dogs are banned from beaches has stretched every year. This year, for example, daylight saving began on September 30, meaning dogs were banned from beaches for 'summer hours' six months of the year.

With the proposal now being 5pm, and from late October to March, Parsons' good relationship with elected representatives is being praised by people on her dog friends Facebook page.

The review committee is chaired by councillor Noelene Raffills and made up of Casey, Calum Penrose and Michael Goudie. It is assisted by Independent Maori Statutory Board member Glenn Wilcox.

"They simply ran out of time," says Parsons of the adjournment. "It's has not been an easy task trying to merge dog bylaws and polices from seven councils into one document to rule them all."

"It was a very long hearing session for the committee interspersed by informed debate and general agreement on issues from faecal pick up, dogs in heat and animal welfare, to access to sports fields, community education and working dogs," says John Kirikiri, from Hibiscus and Bays Local Board.

One of the key things that appeared to have changed council's thinking on the months and times in which dogs could be on the beach, was photographic evidence.

"The proposed time and seasons rule is thanks to nearly 10,000 submissions and especially to everyone who sent in nearly 600 fantastic photos of empty beaches during the month of March," says long-time dog advocate Gaye Harding, also from Hibiscus Coast and Bays. "That was very helpful and a big help to the decision making by the committee."

The review committee will recommend that there will be no regional 'time and season' beach rule for winter. Instead there will be a rollover of the existing rules attached to delegated powers for the Local Boards to review if their communities wish. - with contributions from John Kirikiri

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- The Aucklander

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