Dogs at Lennox Head were the source of debate and confusion at Ballina Council’s meeting yesterday.
Proceedings began with a deputation from dog enthusiast Josh Brown, who was excited about the new recommendations for dog management at Lennox Head Surf Club Reserve, and offered the services of dog-owners to help with fundraising for the work, ‘to make it a nice space for people with dogs on lead and for non-dog people further south.’
Arriving late, Cr Williams spoke in support of the motion to enlarge the dog area near the surf club, which he said ‘arose out of residents concerns about the “walk of shame” between the two fences to access the dog beach.’
He said there was frustration at the lack of facilities for people with dogs going to and from the dog beach, and currently nowhere to sit down and socialise with other people.
Cr Williams said a petition in favour of change had achieved 1,000 signatures in two weeks, showing significant support from the local community and local dog owners.
The new plan would provide a wider permanent path, and make it easier for dog-owners to comply with signage, as well as providing access to coffee for dog walkers.
‘Separating people from coffee is never a good idea,’ he said, ‘especially early in the morning when the dog walkers are there.
‘Let them access coffee, everyone is calmer then!’
Cr Sharon Cadwallader requested a twelve month trial, which Cr Williams agreed to, but Cr Phillip Meehan objected to as a ‘waste of operational time’.
Cr Cadwallader said the reason for a trial was the controversy surrounding dogs near the surf club, particularly since the closure of the old dog access path from further north.
‘Statistics don’t lie,’ she said. ‘We are above the state average on incidents with dogs.
‘This year we have had 76 dog attacks, 83 penalty infringement notices, and 178 dog collection requests, along with many other complaints. These are pretty high stats,’ said Cr Cadwallader.
‘I get it, people like to exercise dogs, come back and have a coffee. But we do get that conflict of space at the moment.
‘By bringing this back after twelve months it will clearly tell us whether it’s a good thing or not, and the cost.
Cr Eoin Johnston said the conflicts were only going to get worse, with the closure the lake road and the increased popularity of the kiosk. ‘Lennox is bursting at the seams and you haven’t seen anything yet.’
Mayor David Wright said he would support the proposed changes, as ‘the majority of people will be happy with it. The surf club just want to be able to get their boats out.’
Cr Jeff Johnson spoke against the revised dog boundaries, arguing that it would increase conflict between surf club users and families on grass and dog owners.
‘It’s a very congested space in that area,’ he said, and ‘Ballina Council is already very accommodating to dogs, we have a large off leash area.’
After more argy bargy, Cr Johnson moved an amendment to maintain the existing dog on lead area.
He said council should remove the confusing signs and put new signs on the ground, with an outdoor shower to be added to the side of the amentity building so dog owners can wash dogs and socialise in that area, but not open up the whole area north of the surf club.
This amendment found no seconder, and lapsed.
From here the meeting fell into confusion, with Mayor Wright realising he had misunderstood which map was being proposed. ‘Figure 2 cannot work,’ he said.
After council staff explained the maps again, with the preferred option allowing dogs on leash north of the surf club, Crs Sharon Cadwallader and David Wright both withdrew their earlier support for the motion.
Mayor Wright apologised for his misunderstanding and Cr Eoin Johnston asked if the discussion could be deferred to the next meeting because of the confusion, but Cr Meehan said, ‘we need to be showing our community we can read a business paper and make a decision. It’s not acceptable to say we need more time because we are confused.
‘We won’t have the infrastructure in place for the summer holidays. We need to have this done. Staff have been working hard on this to get it to us today so they can implement our suggested action.’
He said he supported the figure 2 option. ‘Those of us who have travelled overseas, have seen the freedoms of people with companion dogs in some areas. We can be generous but also very restrictive.’ said Cr Meehan.
Too many rules?
Cr Williams also urged councillors to support the Figure 2 option, which was easy to explain and understand. ‘Lots of rules in one small area is confusing,’ he said.
He argued that it would be easy to create delineation on Nipper days with witches hats restricting the dog area.
‘Straight lines and fences make it easier for staff and rangers to manage this process, and they’re the people who will be frontline on this,’ said Cr Williams.
‘Clarity is good, and helps the situation. We don’t need another briefing. We need to make the decision today.’
Mayor Wright disagreed however, and used his casting vote to delay a decision until the December meeting, following another briefing, and further consultation with the surf club.