BY JULIA WADE
Canine health and freedom were on top of the agenda at a meeting held last week where the community could express their views on proposed new council restrictions for Mangawhai’s four-legged residents.
As part of Kaipara District Council’s (KDC) Dog Policy and Bylaw Review meetings, Mayor Dr Jason Smith and councillors Karen Joyce-Paki and Anna Curnow met with a 50 strong crowd on May 23 to hear submissions both for and against the new bylaws being proposed.
The meeting, held at Mangawhai Club, was the second for the council panel who previously met with Dargaville locals on May 20, ‘though only seven people and one dog showed up there’ Smith says.
Council received nearly 400 submissions to the proposed changes to the dog bylaw, which include redefining Mangawhai’s estuary as a ‘leash-on’ area all year round and banning dogs completely from some areas of Mangawhai Heads’ shops.
Those who spoke at the meeting were generally against the proposal, with dog owners offering different ideas and raising several concerns regarding the proposed restrictions, in particular the negative impact on dogs if space for them to run free becomes limited.
“I think we are storing up trouble, creating frustrated, grumpy dogs if they can’t be allowed to do natural doggy things like run, explore and socialise,” summed up one submitter.
Although the northern end of the Mangwhai Heads surf beach remains an unleashed area under the new proposal, submitters say it is not ideal for some dog walkers – especially the elderly – due to the terrain, tides and lack of parking at summer time.
Due to easy access and flat terrain, the estuary along Alamar Crescent is preferred by many.
One submitter says that the proposal for the estuary to become solely a leashed area was ‘discriminatory’ especially towards the ‘elderly, disabled, those encumbered by small children and nine-to-five workers’.
“We need to ensure we cater for all… I propose the area from the North Avenue car park to the rocks at the end be an unleashed area all year except in the high season, while northwards up to the motorcamp be a dog free area all year.”
Although leashed dogs around Mangawhai Heads shops was supported, council were asked to ‘not over-react’ with a total dog ban.
“For elderly people in particular, dogs often are their companions and walk them to the shops. Don’t see why you should take that away. There seems to be no clear reason for a ban.”
There was also support for more signage on beaches advertising expectations of canine behaviour and dog friendly areas as well as ideas on specially designed dog-poo bins.
Council also heard from supporters of the changes, who were concerned about off-leash dogs causing conflict with beachgoers, particularly children, and harm to the environment, especially nesting birds on the Sandspit.
A member of the conservation sanctuary, Bream Tail Farm Residents Association, says their ‘biggest concern’ with public and dog access on the Bream Tail trail, was in regards to the group’s goal of returning kiwi to the farm and fears of spreading Kauri dieback.
“Conservation of the farm is close to our hearts… kiwi may not be allowed to be transferred onto the farm if there is any risk of dogs… we’re submitting against letting dogs even on a lead being allowed onto the track.”
Another submitter, who owns a bach along the estuary and had been previously bitten by a free-range dog, says they often find dog bags ‘hanging off their trees’ when they arrive at their property, and have ‘rescued birds from the jaws of dogs’.
A submitter asked why council class fairy terns as ‘a major issue’ however, when the birds do not often frequent or nest on the eastern side of the estuary.
“DOC has control over the entire Sandspit area, Pakiri and Te Arai… dogs have rights too… .”
Mayor Smith thanked everyone for attending, saying council were ‘delighted’ that people were making submissions.
“It is important to hear from all of you and hear you all equally, every one of you has an important voice.”
Canine rights on the line: Council members including Kaipara’s mayor pay heed to a full house of Mangawhai locals in their arguments both for and against proposed new dog bylaws.