It had been a long and difficult "gestation," Far North District Council chief executive Shaun Clarke said, which made the official opening of the council's new $1.5 million northern animal shelter outside Kaitaia even more gratifying.
Mayor John Carter, who cut the ribbon on Friday morning, agreed that it had been a long time coming.
First proposed when Yvonne Sharp was Mayor, the project had had its ups, downs and challenges, he said, and the result was a credit to all who had been involved.
The people of the Far North felt very strongly about animal welfare, and the new facility demonstrated its importance to the council.
Custom designed by Whangārei firm HB Architecture, and built by KPH Construction, in Kaitaia, the shelter could cater for up to 20 dogs in individual kennels, with separate quarantining facilities, exercise areas, veterinary and storage facilities. The entire complex could be easily cleaned to prevent the spread of diseases, such as parvovirus, with impermeable surfaces, solid separation barriers and separated drainage, including in the exercise areas.
The facility surpassed New Zealand animal welfare standards, and was a substantial improvement on the previous shelter nearby. The kennels were bigger than the codes of welfare minimum, while three exercise areas would allow dogs to spend more time outside their kennels, and there were separate, quieter areas for elderly or more anxious dogs, and dogs with young puppies.
"Public expectations about standards of animal care and welfare have evolved considerably over the decades, and this new shelter reflects those expectations," Carter added.
"Just as importantly, it will provide a safer and more pleasant working environment for our hard-working animal management officers."
KPH Construction had begun work in September, and had completed the project ahead of time and within budget.
Clarke said a contribution of $1 million from the government's Covid-19 economic stimulus funding had broken the "impasse" that had so long delayed the project, and was also helping to progress work on a new 14-kennel southern shelter near Kaikohe. The council hoped to complete that facility by July next year, subject to the availability of construction materials.
Meanwhile Clarke acknowledged the contributions made by a number of people, including the council's general manager of district services, Dean Myburgh, who had devoted "a hell of a lot of time" to it, and the animal control team, who dealt with difficult people and dogs on a daily basis.
Myburgh added that the animal control team were not 'dog-killers,' as they had once been labelled, but worked very hard to re-home dogs that came into their care. (Clarke said they had successfully re-homed 96 dogs, two of them at the second attempt, over the last 12 months).
Clarke also acknowledged Leonie Exel, from Bay of Islands Watchdogs, who had "kept us honest," and played a major role in the exercising of democracy,
The new shelter began receiving and housing dogs from across the district on Friday afternoon, and all dogs in council care are scheduled to be there by the end of next this week, after which no dogs will be kept at the temporary Horeke animal shelter, which is due to be decommissioned.