Barking-mad---Councils-last-minute-changes-spark-furyThe official map detailing this summer’s restrictions. Dogs are only permitted in the green and pink areas, with the latter being an off-leash zone.

By Gav Ross

HERE we go again! Dog owners from Inverloch and surrounds claim they’ve been hoodwinked once again by Bass Coast Shire Council after dates for new restrictions were extended and approved on-the-spot at last week’s council meeting. After months of community consultation, including a public forum and exhaustive workshops costing ratepayers a total of $50,000, dog owners stormed out of last week’s meeting in disgust… again. And it wasn’t just residents who were angry – members of council’s own Domestic Animal Management Advisory Committee (DAMAC), the group of community representatives working with council to attempt to find a solution to the year-long saga, were just as surprised and miffed. DAMAC member Ivan Hipworth was shaking his head in disbelief as he exited the council chamber. “DAMAC had recommended times and dates and once again we come to a council meeting and they’ve changed the dates,” he said, throwing his hands in the air. “It just doesn’t make sense. “You put all this effort in to come up with something to please the majority and then (the council) just changes it anyway.” The decision has thrown the advisory committee into turmoil, with members questioning whether there’s any point continuing. “It feels like we’re banging our heads against a brick wall,” Mr Hipworth added. “Whatever we achieve will just end up getting changed.” Another DAMAC member, Dom Brusamarello, was equally stunned. “It seems we still have a lot to learn about place-based consultation,” he remarked, adding that the group had “no indication” a change was going to be made. Dog owners leaving the chamber were so incensed by the decision that they refused to talk to media immediately after the meeting. “I don’t have anything to say, they’re all just f**ked,” one woman said before storming off in tears. “All that money spent and they didn’t listen to DAMAC or the people,” another woman added. Was much really changed? The original recommendation from council officers, which DAMAC had assisted with, detailed restrictions for three sections of beach: • From the beach entrance at Wave Street to Wreck Creek • From the beach entrance at Cuttriss Street and Screw Creek • From end of Venus Street to the Esplanade car park The time frame for these restrictions in the report presented to councillors covered from December 15 to January 31, with the addition of weekends and public holidays between the start of February and Easter Monday. Cr Jordan Crugnale moved a different motion, extending the main dates by as much as five weeks – from December 1 through to the end of February. “The time restrictions will work well,” she commented. “We’re at a stage where everyone gets a little bit of something. “There’s a 24-hour off-leash area just near the angling club, where anyone can take their dog to the beach at any given time.” Altering the dates also removed restrictions in the original recommendation on weekends throughout March. Cr Crugnale also asked her colleagues to consider declaring the beach around Screw Creek a completely dog-free area at all times of the year, starting next month. “We have a responsibility to protect the wading and migratory birds in this inlet,” she said. Cr Crugnale further indicated dog restrictions for Inverloch will need to be reviewed every year due to rapidly shifting sands around the inlet. Cr Phil Wright wholeheartedly supported the new motion. “My attitude to beaches has always been this – wildlife first, humans second and dogs last,” he said. “I don’t know where the concept came that dogs have a right on the beach. “Yes, they’re allowed on the beach as long as they’re not having an impact on wildlife and people.” Cr Andrew Phillips said new rules give people “more options.” “Three years ago if you were at Inverloch and on the beach you had to have your dog on a leash all the time,” he said, adding that the enforcements at Inverloch are “nowhere near” as restrictive as rules on Phillip Island. Cr Neil Rankine, who chairs DAMAC meetings, said the advisory group came up with recommendations “pretty close” to what Cr Crugnale had presented. All councillors bar one agreed on the new motion. Cr Clare Le Serve, whose ward will be targeted next year when new restrictions for the Waterline area are sorted, said Cr Crugnale’s motion went against what the community was promised. “I think the (original) recommendation from officers was based around consultation with the community,” she said. “I disagree with trying to change the times to fit in with Phillip Island or anywhere else. “We shouldn’t alter them.” The next DAMAC meeting promises to be an interesting one – if anyone turns up. __________________________________________________________________________________________

Doggy do’s and don’ts

RESTRICTIONS for dogs on Inverloch beaches this summer, in a nutshell.

  • Dogs banned in three stretches of beach (see map) between December 1 and February 28, between 9am and 6pm. The ban extends to the first school holidays, including Easter public holidays.
  • Dogs banned at any time from Screw Creek to the beach entrance at Anderson Inlet (Caravan Park) from December 1 onwards.
  • Beach between Grandview Grove and Cuttriss Street is an off-leash area, 24/7, provided dog owners carry a lead and can control their dog with voice commands.
  • Dogs allowed on any other sections of beach not mentioned above provided they’re on a lead.