Bass Coast,

Mayor's Statement - Council Meeting 19 February 2014

Given the extensive interest in the current trial of dog restrictions, before we start tonight’s proceedings, I would like to make the following statement.

Under the Domestic Animals Act 1994, Council is responsible to put in place measures to manage cats and dogs in public places.

In 2012, after extensive community consultation we developed and adopted Council’s Domestic Animal Management Plan.

This was followed by the time-share arrangements that were adopted by Council in October last year.

The times for the Inverloch arrangements were amended in the December Meeting as a result of community feedback. In addition, at this meeting, Council also confirmed that all dog restrictions in the Shire were a trial and that they would be reviewed in May.

The issue of dogs on beaches is a highly emotive one – where people are passionate about their views, but there is little consensus as to what is the way to balance these different, and often conflicting, opinions.

It is clear to us now, that our community consultation and engagement during the development of the time restrictions has not been as inclusive as it could have been.

You have told us this loud and clear and we are listening.

Councillors are committed to improving the consultation and engagement process during the remainder of the trial and beyond. Individuals and groups are welcome to submit their thoughts to Council now and as the review progresses, as many have already done.

Council has a responsibility to ensure all views are considered, so we will develop an inclusive engagement plan.

As part of this, the Domestic Animal Management Advisory Committee (known as DAMAC) will be reconvened, with revised Terms of Reference, to assist with future considerations.

These considerations may include, but are not limited to, off-leash/on-leash areas, times and length of restrictions, place-based vs Shire-wide solutions, etc.

We are keen to listen to community views of how we can achieve a balance of access to our beaches.

So far, most people have responded responsibly to the access restrictions that are on trial and, to date, Council has seen no need to fine people.  We hope that this will continue to be the case, so that Council’s rangers and Local Law Officers can continue to focus on providing education and information.

Regrettably, some of the correspondence and emails that we have received has been negative and personal against Council and individual Councillors. This is not helpful.

I call on you to work with us to find constructive solutions to achieve a balance that acknowledges the various needs and views.

Thank you.