Why has Bass Coast Shire Council’s dog restriction gone beyond disappointment to community outrage?
Generally people can accept decisions they dislike with an expression of disappointment and then move on, but rarely do they become outraged. Why?
The answer may be found in how council approached the Inverloch community, and for everyone in Bass Coast take notice, this issue is more than supposedly unruly dog owners and beaches, it is about the community members being treated with respect.
Inverloch residents were asked their views on several locations for off-leash areas for dogs.
For many dog owners the council was proposing something in addition to the then arrangements and residents approached the consultation with high expectations.
What residents found was significant restriction without prior notice, warning or discussion.
Council went to print in their regular newsletter “Let your dog roam free responsibly” advising residents in around 200 words how they had consulted and implemented the new off-leash areas.
Then in the next to last paragraph they say, “There are also restrictions…” a by the way we have also implemented some of the strictest controls in Victoria on Inverloch residents and visitors, and bad luck if that impacts you.
During all that consultation on off-leash areas no one from council once mentioned they were even considering such strict restrictions at Inverloch.
There are clearly different community views on the issues of dogs in general and dogs on beaches and no one answer will satisfy everyone. But an actual decision is not always the issue that causes outrage, remember when a Prime Minister promised No Carbon Tax and then we got one. Was the outrage that followed about the decision or the broken promise and lack of respect?
You simply cannot say one thing and do something completely different and then expect no angry response.
When elected officials treat the people they represent with low regard they should expect the impacted people to be outraged.
If a community is outraged then a council only needs to look at their own processes to understand why.
The actions of some councillors have now damaged the reputation of all councillors and impacted our great council staff and officers.
This is not just a decision about dogs on beaches, it’s also about treating people with respect.
If council thinks such a sham consultation process is appropriate for Inverloch residents, what might be council’s future consultation approach to the rest of Bass Coast residents?
Will they be changing aged and disability services, roads and parks program, child care, transport services or waste management in a similar manner?
This outrage is of Bass Coast councillors’ own making through having a low regard to the process of consultation and therefore a lack of respect for the people they represent.
It has continued for four months now and I suspect it is not going to go away anytime soon.
Phil Clark, Inverloch/Eltham