council-promises-new-debate-on-dogsHis expression says it all. Well-known Inverloch resident Ross Smith says he won’t stand for anymore nonsense from the council and he’ll keep piping up at public meetings until the notion of further time restrictions for dogs on Inverloch beaches this summer is abandoned. G113914

BASS Coast Mayor, Cr Neil Rankine, has quelled fears the council may be on its way to repeating last summer’s controversial curfew for dogs on Inverloch’s beaches.
With the start of community consultation sessions early last week, the council has now committed to reaching some kind of solution for Inverloch.
The new restrictions, whatever they may be, will not be revealed and voted on until November’s council meeting, but Cr Rankine assures history won’t repeat itself.
“It certainly won’t be the same as last time,” he told the Sentinel-Times.
He said some beaches “may be more appropriate” for dogs than others, adding that dogs may be restricted from certain beach areas in Inverloch depending on the outcomes of the consultation process.
Cr Rankine’s comments came just days after a community forum was held at Inverloch Hub early last week.
He said close to 200 people attended.
“The object of the exercise was to hear the community’s concerns about dogs on beaches,” he said.
“We had to have a town hall meeting (and now) it’s time to move into solution mode.
“We had a good number of people fill out forms, telling us they’re interested in working out a solution.”
The forum was facilitated by a representative from Melbourne-based consultancy Chit Chat.
Cr Rankine confirmed “about $40,000” of ratepayers’ money had been spent on the new consultation sessions, which continue with one-on-one sessions next week.
Council’s acting community and economic development director, Antoinette Mitchell, also confirmed that figure is for consultation for Inverloch only, meaning further money will be spent on consultants next year when restrictions for council-managed beaches on Phillip Island and in the Waterline area (which now includes Cape Paterson and Kilcunda beaches) are dealt with.
Inverloch resident Julie Jones said the forum was “pretty well run” but was long overdue.
“It’s disappointing it took them so long to organise a meeting like this, especially after all the consultation that has already happened,” she said.
“I really hope these workshops will help produce a result that is good for everybody and not just the few who don’t like dogs on beaches at all.”
Ms Jones said it appeared the council “hadn’t done anything” since revoking the original ban last March and was now worried any decision made after consultation could be rushed.
“They left it until September to even start looking at it again,” she said.
Another meeting participant said the meeting seemed to cover old ground.
“The fundamental flaw in what the council is doing right now is they haven’t identified what the problem is they’re trying to solve,” the participant said.
“The biggest thing I noticed at the meeting was that about ten people asked the same question in a different way – ‘why are we here and why are we doing this?”
“That still wasn’t answered.”

What now?

If you missed last week’s forum, you still have a chance to have your say by attending two open house (drop-in) sessions scheduled to take place at the Inverloch Hub next week:
* Wednesday, October 8 from 5pm to 8pm, and
* Thursday, October 9 from 9am to 11am
As for other council-managed beaches around the shire, including Phillip Island, the Waterline area, Kilcunda and Cape Paterson, the current restrictions will remain in place until further consultation in 2015.


‘It’s a bloody scandal!’

Ex-councillor speaks out

FORMER Townsend ward councillor Ross Smith had a lot to say about last summer’s dogs-on-beaches debacle, but knowing full well the pressure local government representatives can be under, he decided to keep his mouth shut.
And after hoping the whole sorry saga had come to a conclusion earlier this year when councillors voted in favour of revoking the ban and undertaking place-based consultation, Mr Smith was glad he hadn’t vented his spleen.
But when he heard last month that there were new community consultations for Inverloch, and there was a chance the council could re-introduce the same or similar restrictions for pooches on beaches again this December….well, enough was enough.
“I didn’t want to get involved in this, but I’ve got to do something,” he told The Sentinel-Times last week.
“I’m not much of an animal lover, but the (ban) last year made my wife, who takes our two dogs for walks constantly, very miserable.”
At the core of Mr Smith’s anger over the issue is not just the fact his partner and the rest of the community has been forced to abide by “ridiculous” rules, it’s his claim a clerical error in a three year-old council document is to blame for the entire mess.
Citing figures from the Responsible Pet Ownership Survey 2011 Preliminary Report – undertaken when Mr Smith still sat on council – he pointed out “a major error” in the document.
The error had been previously raised by dogs lobby groups, including Sandy Paws Coronet Bay.
In the survey, when respondents were asked about dog issues in their neighbourhood, only 0.9 per cent listed controls for dogs on beaches as a problem.
However, it appears the figure was mistakenly changed to 17.5 per cent and listed as a one of four main issues.
Mr Smith’s argument is that this error, small as it may appear on paper, “was not corrected and left to compound”, leading to last year’s fiasco.
“It’s a bloody scandal!” he exclaimed.
“A council officer made this error when typing up the survey, which in turn became the basis for the Domestic Animal Management Plan 2012-16 and further council decisions regarding dogs on beaches.”
Mr Smith said he recalled there were talks behind closed doors about restricting hours for dogs on beaches prior to 2012, but the council at the time was not in favour of such a move.
“I said that if we took up that idea we’d be mad,” he said.
“We knew it was such a divisive issue.”
Mr Smith was one of close to 200 people attending last week’s dog consultation forum at Inverloch Hub.
He said he attempted to move a motion at the meeting, which requested that council refrain from introducing a curfew, work on leash-free dog areas around Inverloch and keep enforcing the ‘normal’ rules which have been in place since April.
“I didn’t get a seconder, but I’ll be raising the motion again at a future meeting,” he added.
Aside from his dissatisfaction surrounding the entire process thus far, Mr Smith said at least one council representative impressed him last week.
“I thought the new CEO, Paul Buckley, was impressive,” he said.
“He will pull this council into line.”
Council’s acting community and economic development manager, Antoinette Mitchell, said the clerical error in the Responsible Pet Ownership Survey 2011 preliminary report had been acknowledged, but would have made “no difference” to future council decisions.
She said rules for dogs on beaches had been gazetted as far back as 1999 and the goal has always been to improve the safety and amenity of beaches for users in the shire.