If, like me, you are an owner of one of the more than 9000 dogs in the city, you will have received your reminder to renew your dog registration this week. The Dog Control Act makes councils responsible for the management of dogs to ensure community safety. As dog owners, we have rights and responsibilities under this law, and most dog owners take these seriously and manage their dogs well.
Sometimes though, due to an aggressive incident or roaming, dogs end up in the council-run dog pound. Here they are cared for while their owner is found, or a legal process is pursued. Many dogs are quickly reunited with their owners or can be rehomed. While they are in our care though, council has a responsibility to look after them properly and provide suitable accommodation.
In 2018, government changes to welfare codes meant we needed to upgrade the facilities at the pound in Totara Rd. Some improvements were able to be made straight away, such as having a suitably trained member of staff on-site, but others, such as the provision of an isolation facility and larger kennels, could not.
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Councillors were taken on a tour to see the issues first-hand. The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) also confirmed we did not meet the new standards. Staff were asked to look at improvement options, from partnering with a private provider or another council, to renovation of the existing facility or a new building and they presented their report to council in February 2020.
It was clear from the report our only option was building a new facility. The country then entered the first Covid-19 lockdown and further planning was delayed. The plan for the new build did not come back to the council until a year later. By then, the estimated cost was around $4.5 million plus GST. The council agreed to go ahead, and a detailed design was developed. Staff worked hard to make the design and materials as efficient as possible by substituting materials and reducing project scope to bring costs down by $1.3m and put the project out to competitive tender.
In a majority decision earlier this month, the council voted to proceed with the new animal shelter at $7.3m plus GST and building will start in the next couple of months.
Construction costs have been rapidly increasing, and we know further delays would only have resulted in a further increase in costs. Not proceeding would also have risked prosecution from MPI, reputational damage and poor outcomes for the dogs in our care.
Palmerston North is a growing city, and we expect the new facility will provide a safe and comfortable environment for animals (and staff) well into the future.
• Lorna Johnson is a Palmerston North city councillor.
Editor's note: This is the last councillor column before the October local government elections. Susan Baty declined the opportunity while Zulfiqar Butt, Billy Meehan, Orphée Mickalad and Bruno Petrenas did not respond to the Manawatū Guardian's invitation. Vaughan Dennison accepted the invitation but did not provide a column.