ABOVE: More than 70 people converged at Ocean Shores Country Club on Monday night to discuss the New Brighton off-leash dog exercise area.
ABOVE: More than 70 people converged at Ocean Shores Country Club on Monday night to discuss the New Brighton off-leash dog exercise area.

Dog walking area comes under fire

MORE than 70 people converged on the Ocean Shores Country Club on Monday night to respond to Byron Shire Council’s biodiversity and sustainability advisory committee’s proposal to reduce the New Brighton off-leash dog exercise area.

The prospect of shortening the 1.8km area to 750 metres to protect core habitat – a key recommendation of the Byron Biodiversity Conservation Strategy, 2004 – has come under fire from dog walkers who believe there is “no good reason to change the status quo.”

Co-ordinated by Brunswick Area Responsible Canine Owners (BARCO) president Geraldine Lockyer and featuring presentations from National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) and Byron Bird Buddies, most at the meeting were local dog owners keen to voice their objections, prompting one to declare that “dog walkers feel like a threatened species.”

While debate ranged from the impacts of 4WD owners and the feasibility of erecting a fence to accusations of inflated NPWS figures, one particular subject did (temporarily) unite the group - compliance.

“The main problem that came out of last night was compliance,” said Ms Lockyer.

“We all agreed that people need to comply with the regulations. The people who don’t comply are not the same people who use the off-leash beach exercise area.

“There is deep concern about losing dog walking beaches in this shire. New Brighton is the latest and, as it seems we have also lost Waterlilly Park on-leash exercise area.”

While BARCO was quick to suggest that an increase in fines to $1000 would deter people from taking their dogs into the Brunswick Heads Nature Reserve, NPWS Ranger Lori Cameron said that on-the-spot fines were set in the legislation at $300.

“This is the minimum penalty,” she said. “If the matter goes to court the magistrate may order a penalty of much more.”

“NPWS staff regularly conducts patrols of the reserve and issue penalties as appropriate.

“Another concern is that a dog may take a 1080 fox poison so compliance is just one issue.

“The intertidal zone is used by threatened marine turtles and shorebirds. The walking of domestic dogs in these areas is one of the officially recognised threats to many of these endangered species.”

One of five councillors present at the meeting was Cr Simon Richardson, who said he fully supported the advisory committee’s recommendation, “as it is vital that our most vulnerable species have a chance to survive and are given a designated area like humans and their pets.”

“A compromise is needed; rare and threatened species have lost most of their habitat and share their nesting areas with feral animals, humans, dogs, boats etc and it is only just and fair that we put ourselves second occasionally so that other species may exist,” Cr Richardson said.

The matter will be discussed at next week’s council meeting.

BARCO will stage a protest at New Brighton beach this Saturday at 10am.

“It’s important to keep areas open for the benefit of the community, Ms Lockyer said.


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