BAW Baw councillors have unanimously approved a 12-month trial of designated dogs off-leash areas in the shire.
Above: a council aerial image of Brooker Park, Warragul - one of the most preferred off-leash parks in Baw Baw.
First published in the 27 March 2015 edition of the Warragul & Baw Baw Citizen. Available now from retailers across Baw Baw.
Brooker Park in Warragul, Bellbird and Alex Goudie parks in Drouin, Darnum Recreation Reserve, Trafalgar’s James Balfour Oak Tree Park, Dowton Park in Yarragon, Kydd Parke Reserve in Jindivick and Dunstan Oval and St Phillack Reserve in Rawson will play host to the unfenced areas for the duration of the trial.
Mount Worth ward councillor Peter Kostos said a long consultation period helped determine where the off-leash areas would be, with 34 Baw Baw parks and reserves initially identified as having potential for off-leash areas.
“I believe it’s taken a good 18 months to get to this stage,” he said at Wednesday’s council meeting.
“Out of that, we’ve got to the recommendation where we’re sitting here tonight with quite a lot of potential areas deleted from the list.
“There are no designated areas on sports grounds.”
Concerns had been raised by sporting clubs about dogs contaminating play areas.
A report by council staff said the community’s response to the trial during the consultation period had been mixed, with 48 per cent in support of off-leash areas and 37 per cent against.
Time restrictions were also suggested, but 54 per cent of people were not supportive of the idea.
The cost of introducing the off-leash areas with fencing would be significantly higher than without. Without fencing, it would cost $900 to set up Brooker Park, which includes bins and signage. It would cost $13,500 if fencing were added.
Bellbird Park in Drouin would cost $18,850 with fencing, or $850 without.
Some parks are already fenced.
Warragul ward councillor Joe Gauci stressed this was only a trial, and the costly installation of fencing may be considered at the end.
Drouin ward councillor Tricia Jones spoke strongly in favour of fencing, saying it would improve safety for dogs and other park users.
A large number of people used the council’s community participation time at Wednesday’s meeting to tell councillors their thoughts on the planned trial.
One Trafalgar resident said: “I beg the councillors not to allow dogs off leash in… any park where there are any playgrounds for children” and the theory that dogs socialise better off leash “is absolute rubbish.”
Trafalgar Community Development Association president David Lyons said there had been some concerns raised about some sites considered, but suggested Linear Park also be considered to become an off-leash area.
“The TCDA would support Oak Tree Park, but there was concern about fencing because it would change the look of the park,” he said.
“Some members of the community were concerned about some parks suggested during consultation, especially around playgrounds.”
A Drouin resident said he supported the plan, and said the onus on dog control lies with the owner.
“Everyone forgets that people whose dogs are not controllable should not have them off lead,” he said.
“It’s almost universal veterinary opinion that dogs off lead is good for the dogs.”
“Happier dogs are less likely to develop bad behavioural habits.”
Mount Worth ward councillor and former mayor Murray Cook used the motion as a chance to take a swipe at previous councils.
“This is a sensitive issue,” Cr Cook said.
“This council said at the very start [it would] address some of the sensitive issues other councils have gone so far on.
“We will address this and other sensitive issues.”
Cr Cook also said some community members needed to be more responsible dog owners.
“Houses that back onto parks that just allow the dog to go out [are irresponsible,] which leads me on to the topic of enforcement.
“There’s no good in us making these hard decisions without us following through.
“Select a breed that is suitable. A lot of the problems that we have are not the problems of the dogs, they are the problems of the owners.”
North ward councillor David Balfour was not present at the meeting.
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