Stephen McIllhatton, Skennars Head
I am not sure if all residents are aware of the change in policy Ballina Shire Council (BSC) has just released regarding dog management on Sharpes Beach. If you read the latest ‘Community Connect Extra’ produced by BSC there is a section ‘No Go Zones for Dogs’.
It states that, ‘because of the popularity of some beaches and the presence of migratory and shore birds, dogs are not allowed on: ‘Northern end of Sharpes Beach during summer when the beach is patrolled’.
Upon studying the whole section, you will see this policy implies that outside of this area, dogs are allowed anywhere else on Sharpes Beach, leashed or not. This would include the other patrolled area at the southern end of the beach which is adjacent to Flatrock Reef. That is, by implication, the same dog management regime as north of the Lennox Head Surf Club i.e. free range.
This is inconsistent with the current signage at Sharpes Beach, which again is inconsistent with BSC’s last published Annual Report, and is now overridden with this latest publication that also restricts the season in which this operates (summer only, rather than patrol season).
In addition, apparently our elected Council resolved to minimise any enforcement actions during the period from March to June this year due to COVID-19 when there would have been more infringements owing to COVID restrictions.
On discussing this matter with one of these councillors he said in frustration, ‘The rangers attend very rarely and never fine people, so it makes a joke of the no dog signs… the problem is getting worse… and there is an increasing culture that dogs can go everywhere’.
My neighbours have had their leashed dogs facially mauled and bloodied by unleashed dogs at the beach. They, and not to mention the wildlife, would also appreciate some consistency. Though, I am sure the birds will know that they can safely land/nest on Sharpes Beach north of the Red/Yellow flagged Surf Patrol area from December–February!
To set the record straight I do not dislike dogs. My 91-year-old father’s dog is basically his only companion since mum died and a great source of comfort. I just want the Council to be consistent in its management of this issue rather than change policy by stealth or deliberate inaction.
Otherwise, with most people holidaying domestically this year, the rules at Sharpes Beach will simply become ‘Rafferty’s’.