Bay dog bylaw may change
Dog lovers may soon be able to walk their pets at Caroline Bay on summer mornings.
Some councillors have indicated a willingness to change a council policy that bans all dogs from the beach from October 1 to March 31.
Councillor Sally Parker urged her colleagues to allow dogs on the beach before 9am in summer.
The idea was brought up during a bylaw hearing on Tuesday and a number of other councillors subsequently signalled their support.
Parker, a dog owner, told councillors it would be great to ‘‘watch the sun rise with your pooch’’.
Asked for their views by Mayor Damon Odey, several other councillors indicated they supported of increasing the hours and having the bay accessible on summer mornings.
‘‘I’m very happy,’’ Parker said on Wednesday.
‘‘It’s been a topic that I’m passionate about and I’m so happy that we had a good discussion and we came on board with it.’’
The changes needed to be formally made at a full council hearing, along with other new proposed dog control rules, including officially allowing dogs in outdoor dining areas.
Submissions were received both for and against relaxing rules for dogs on the beach, dubbed ‘‘draconian’’ by some submitters.
On Wednesday, Odey said he appreciated the number of people who had made submissions about the dog bylaw and had chosen to talk about what was a controversial issue.
The process was about making ‘‘little tweaks’’ and hopefully Timaru would become a more dogfriendly town, he said.
Councillor Nigel Bowen said he still had worries about how dogs would be controlled and it remained to be seen whether they would be ‘‘on-leash or off-leash’’.
‘‘I’m not 100 per cent sure where I sit,’’ he said.
There was still a lot of discussion to be had and it would be ‘‘premature’’ to say that Parker’s idea would go ahead, he said.
Councillor Peter Burt said he supported Parker’s idea.
Anyone walking their dog early in the morning was likely a responsible dog owner and would keep their dog away from the area where penguins were nesting, he said.
Parker said walking one’s dog at the bay had positive effects for both dogs and people, for instance it reduced social isolation for lonely dog owners.
Council communications manager Stephen Doran on Wednesday said council environmental compliance manager Paul Cooper was getting further information for councillors on several potential changes.
The information would be presented to councillors at a full meeting in December or February.
The bylaw was not expected to be changed until March.
Conservation groups South Canterbury Forest and Bird and Timaru Penguins sought more protection for the little blue penguin colony on the beach, via a curfew for the dogs throughout the year, during the day, and a longer dog ban.
Alan Washington also told the council he felt some dog owners were not abiding by existing rules and had a bad attitude.
There had been an ‘‘explosion’’ of dogs this year, and he saw them in places on the bay area where they were not allowed to be.
He was frustrated dog owners did not seem to have got the message, and attributed it potentially to a lack of dogs being registered.
After telling one woman there were signs prohibiting dogs, he was told ‘‘my dog can’t f....ing read’’, he said.
‘‘I am just concerned that the dog owners this winter haven’t shown enough respect,’’ he said.
Fellow submitter Helen Carter claimed most dog owners were responsible and they were very mindful of penguins.
However Fraser Ross told councillors some people did break the dog rules and ‘‘just didn’t seem to want to know’’ when he confronted them.
‘‘Most dog owners were responsible, they do abide by the bylaw. It’s the irresponsible areas, the ones that don’t move, that we are having problems with.’’
Ross, who is South Canterbury Forest and Bird field officer but who was speaking on his own behalf, wanted better signage on the bay because some people claimed not to see the signs.
In his written submission he also asked for the council to better educate owners about cleaning up after dogs, and about other native bird species in South Canterbury.
Hospitality NZ Association South Canterbury chairwoman Kristy Phillips said she had been asked on behalf of her members to request the council update their bylaws, to allow businesses to serve customers with dogs in outdoor dining areas.
‘‘We absolutely support people being able to be out and have their companions [with them],’’ she said.
Councillors indicated they would agree to the idea, and Bowen, co-owner of Speight’s Ale House, said in practice many hospitality businesses allowed dogs already, and this would simply make it legal.
Changes to Timaru’s dog park and improved access routes for dog walkers onto Timaru beaches were also discussed.
All potential changes to the dog control bylaw will be brought before the council again in December or February.
Councillor Sally Parker with her dog Charlie, at Caroline Bay.