DOGS will be permitted to roam off-leash on a 125 metre section of Washhouse Beach at Dunbogan under Port Macquarie-Hastings Council's adopted dogs on beaches policy.
Council will now consult with the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) regarding the erection of large information signage at the beach advising of the area permitted, and prohibited, to dogs and make available educational information as to the conservation and biodiversity value of the Kattang Nature Reserve.
The available area for dog off-leash walking is 125.86 metres from the rock breakwall only.
Mayor Peta Pinson said this has been a difficult issue for the Camden Haven community and hopefully it will be a 'win-win' for all stakeholders.
Council will also investigate upgrades to Dunbogan Beach including a boardwalk, public amenities, formalised carpark to enhance beach use and promoting dog walking on the 2.36 kilometre stretch of beach.
It will provide a report to the March 2022 meeting on estimates for upgrades for consideration in the draft 2022-2023 Operational Plan. Details of any proposed upgrades will be the subject of community consultation prior to being finalised.
Following overwhelming public feedback on the draft dogs on beaches policy during the exhibition period in May-June, council held discussions with Crown Lands and NPWS regarding the proposed prohibition of dogs on Washhouse Beach.
The previous Dogs in Public Open Spaces Policy 2011 permitted dogs on Washhouse Beach, only below the mean high water mark and between specific hours, after a rescission motion was passed by council in 2005 overturning a previous prohibition.
Washhouse Beach, Lighthouse Beach and Nobby's Beach were adopted as leash free dog beaches and work commenced on development of new off leash areas at The Boom Reserve, Port Macquarie; Henry Kendall Reserve, Laurieton; and Wilbur Trotter Reserve, Wauchope.
A report to the October council meeting said over the years, council and NPWS have received a number of complaints about non-compliance of dog related matters at Washhouse Beach south, where some people allow their dogs to enter the Kattang Nature Reserve northern boundary.
"As a result, NPWS are not able to undertake vertebrate pest management programs and have raised concerns about the impact domestic dogs have on threatened species known to occur on Washhouse Beach. NPWS compliance data indicates 60 per cent of their patrols detected illegal dog walking in the dog prohibited area, with 50 per cent of those breaches committed by locals," the report said.
"In November 2020, the current Policy underwent an internal review with consideration of the recreational use of the growing population in our LGA, community expectation and feedback, environmental and social factors to ensure minimal impacts. Following initial feedback and survey responses from key stakeholders, Washhouse Beach was included as a Prohibited Area in the draft Policy."
Mayor Peta Pinson said the issue has been a contentious community matter that has created significant frustration and angst.
"We have been inundated with emails from dog owners and walkers wanting the beach for dog walking from the low water mark, the wet sand water mark. And the birdwatchers and community members who do not want dogs on the beach at all for the protection of the nature reserve," Cr Pinson said.
"Both parties have very strong opinions. The saddest thing about this, these opposing views have caused a fracture in our community. Our community is not like that and I hope that by having a result it will bring the community back together with an understanding of sharing the shore, which is a wonderful thing to do.
"None of us own the environment. The environment is there to be enjoyed and respected and looked after by us all."
Cr Pinson said Kattang Nature Reserve has a significant biodiversity and tourism value for the region and is worthy of protecting.
"Let's not love it to death. We need to work in everyone's best interests," she said
"I hope our community sees this as a win-win. No-one has lost."
Cr Peter Alley said Washhouse Beach is in his 'backyard' where he takes his own dog for a walk.
He said Dunbogan Beach will certainly be improved with upgrades and would be another valuable asset for the local community.
"I look forward to it," he said.
Deputy mayor Lisa Intemann said sharing recreational community spaces demands 'some responsibility from all of us'.
"It is unacceptable if we have dogs that are uncontrolled and causing damage to the nature reserve," Cr Intemann said.
"I believe a big part of the reason we've had this problem before is the lack of appropriate signage. I hope the installation of clear signage, including signage that informs people about the biological and biodiversity characteristics of the area, will encourage all people to have a greater appreciation of the values that are there.
"I encourage all parties to exercise respect for each other, for the environment and for that beautiful place that so many people love, so we can share it in peace and mutual enjoyment."
In January 2022, council will undertake a local government area Coast and Estuary Recreational User Needs Analysis for the Coastal Management Program. It will allow for strategic assessment of new recreational facilities, with findings to help guide any future changes to the Dogs in Public Open Spaces and Driving on Beaches policies.
What else is making news?
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content: