BASS Coast Shire Council has slammed what one of its acting directors has labelled “a campaign of harassment” after four signs displaying details of the newly-introduced daytime ban on dogs at Inverloch beaches were vandalised.
The vandalism comes less than a month after details emerged of abusive emails and phone calls directed at council officers and, in particular, Inverloch councillor Jordan Crugnale.
Acting director of community and economic development, Antoinette Mitchell, said two sticker overlays, featuring updated information placed over the existing signs, had been torn off less than 48 hours after their installation on New Year’s Eve.
Two other temporary signs with information for the public have completely disappeared, leaving dog owners either further confused or unaware that they are breaking the law when taking their pets on to the sand.
It had taken the council 30 days after the start of the trial, on December 1, to update signs throughout Inverloch.
Last week the shire explained why: “The signs would have been up in good time, however the change in the trial times meant that signs had to be redone just before Christmas, which has caused some delays. We are confident that the trial will be up and running in full later this week.”
And it was, but some of the overlays have since been removed.
Ms Mitchell said the vandalism, which has occurred at the Abbott and Cuttriss street beach entrances, has been accompanied by notes stuck onto existing signs, which read:
“The Bass Coast Shire Council has introduced an anti-social and anti-tourist law that you cannot walk your dog on a leash on the beach in Inverloch from 9am to 6pm with no reasons given to residents. If you would like to join our outrage please write a letter of disgust to the following addresses…”
Email addresses to several local news outlets and the shire itself are then listed.
Ms Mitchell said such criminal damage is hindering the trial from being run properly.
“Obviously, people will now go on the beach seeing the old signs and think they’re okay,” she said.
“Council is trying to do its best by having a trial and by seeking all opinions to be fair and open-minded before a permanent decision is made and this is obstructing that process.”
She said new overlays have been ordered to replace those damaged or missing and council will simply keep reinstating signs up until the end of the trial period (April 30) if more vandalism occurs.
Ms Mitchell could not say how much it would cost to replace the signs or what the whole ‘dog trial’ was costing council but agreed the vandalism would certainly add more to the overall cost.
Ms Mitchell said she was also “extremely disappointed” to receive a report that the university students gathering feedback for the trial had been harassed on the beach.
“On their first day, the researchers were trying to conduct their first interview and someone was filming them with an iPad,” Ms Mitchell said.
“That’s a bit intimidating.”
She said there had been a few instances of rangers copping verbal abuse whilst attempting to educate dog walkers on beaches but, as of last week, no fines had been handed out.
“Generally, people have been pretty well behaved,” she said.
“Our approach is education first, then a warning and then fines.”
The fine amount is $144.
Ms Mitchell added that reports on the amount of dogs on beaches around Inverloch over the busy holiday period have been overblown.
“People are saying there have been hundreds of dogs seen on the beach,” she said.
“We haven’t seen that.”
The overlays placed on the existing signs say: ‘Dogs prohibited between 9am-6pm, 1 Dec-30 April’ and ‘dogs permitted on leash 6pm-9am, 1 Dec-30 April’.
This means that dogs are not allowed on any beaches at Inverloch between 9am and 6pm and can only be brought on to the beaches at other times while still on a leash.
Only at two designated areas on the beach, and two locations elsewhere in the town can dogs be taken for a run without a leash.
The off leash areas are:
• The beach area east of Grandview Grove to Cuttriss Street (time restrictions apply)
• The beach area between Abbott Street and Ramsey Boulevard car park (time restrictions apply)
• The inland reserve at the end of Inlet Court (no time restrictions)
• The inland reserve at the end of Endeavour Place (no time restrictions).
Anyone who has information regarding damage to the signs is urged to contact Inverloch Police on 5674 1202.