A dog training club being pushed out to an unfenced field next to a pub and main road is calling for community help to find a new home.
Mount Maunganui Dog Training Club is based at Links Ave Reserve, where the Tauranga City Council plans to lay down artificial grass and create better parking.
Links Ave Reserve is home to Tauranga City United AFC and the dog club.
Moving the dog club was expected to allow for more football capacity.
Club committee member Dave Swinyard said he was not against the upgrade or necessarily the move. He was, however, concerned about the club’s future.
“We were reassured that the relocation would not disadvantage the club. However, one of the things they struggled to find for us was a green site.
In his view: “They [the council] are getting rid of our green site and getting rid of us,” he said
In response, the council said it had proactively engaged with the club early in the process and was “currently working towards finding the club a new home”.
Swinyard said the club had been offered a temporary home at Soper Reserve “which has no facilities and is not even [on the ground]”.
“We highlighted the lack of facilities and that we need lighting. Without lighting, we couldn’t run except for in summer. We run all throughout the year. They said they would look at the cost of putting lights in. They suggested perhaps we would look to fundraise to help with costs.”
Swinyard said the reserve and nearby car parking was often busy.
“We’ll have 40 to 50 people looking for somewhere to park. It’s worse than that for the trainers who are all volunteers. They bring their animals with them - if they can’t see their cars and leave their cars open, they are not going to want to come any more.
“There’s no fence. It’s next to a main road, next to a pub. Without fencing, dogs are going to run off.”
For training purposes, most dogs aren’t on lead, he said, which meant “there will inevitably be dogs running out on to the road”.
Swinyard said the club was originally promised to be moved to a site with “improved facilities” with relocation funding.
Swinyard said club members were “pretty p***** off”.
“I mean, we do a lot for the community. We train an average of 300 to 400 dogs a year. We do demonstrations, displays and things like Doggy Day Out etc.
“We visit hospitals and schools, we talk about being safe with a dog. We host three to four shows a year which brings hundreds of people to town.
The club was hoping someone with land might be able to help.
“The ideal situation for us is to leave the council’s land entirely. We don’t want to be put in this situation again.”
Proposed new charges for using sports fields and reserves such as at Links Ave meant the club would likely have to pay about $1000 a week.
Swinyard said the club could only afford so much.
Asked why the club did not charge more for its services, Swinyard said, “We could do, but I think we would lose people, customers, because they couldn’t afford it, especially in this current climate.
“It would become a club for the rich and we don’t want that because that is not what we are about. We enjoy training dogs and helping the community, not just serving the rich.”
The council’s manager of spaces and places, Alison Law, said the loss of open space was marginal and would not compromise the council’s agreed level of service in the area.
“The only significant use of the current space, other than football, is by the Mount dog club which we are helping to relocate.”
The dog club was the only group needing to move from the grounds.
Law said the council proactively engaged with the club early in the planning for Links Ave Reserve and was “currently working towards finding the club a new home”.
“Through these discussions, there was never a predetermined or set amount of funding earmarked specifically for the relocation,” she said.
“We ... remain committed to working to ensure their core requirements are met now and in the future.
“Part of our commitment to relocate the club includes covering reasonable relocation costs to meet their core requirements for ongoing operation. Our commitment would include covering the cost of installing lighting and storage if required to meet the club’s requirements.”
The council was focused on trying to find the “best outcome”, Law said.
It was securing approvals, funding, and designs.
Construction of the upgraded reserve is expected early next year and expected to be finished by mid-2025.
Kiri Gillespie is an assistant news director and a senior journalist for the Bay of Plenty Times and Rotorua Daily Post, specialising in local politics and city issues. She was a finalist for the Voyager Media Awards Regional Journalist of the Year in 2021.