envelope-budgetWe have now seen the Dogs on Beaches Plan in operation.
For the first time dogs have been banned from the Screw Creek area.
There have been a number of letters published discussing the dog exclusion area that indicate a lack of knowledge of the area and its wildlife and no apparent understanding of the potential impact of dogs.
Firstly, the Screw Creek area is used by many animals in addition to nesting and feeding shore birds.
The dunes are home to many small Swamp Rats whose extensive tunnels and burrows are an indication of how abundant they are.
They are even sighted during the day between the angling club and the creek.
Echidnas and eastern kangaroos are not uncommon, even moving onto the beach.
Coastal scrub houses a strong population of possums, other small native mammals and wombats.
Reptiles such as small skinks, blue tongues and copperhead/tiger snakes are resident along with frog species, often heard after rain.
The beach is home to thousands of visible crabs and many burrowing creatures not readily observed without digging.
The sand flats, shallows and fringes of Screw Creek Estuary provide feeding grounds for many birds; herons, egrets, spoonbills, ibis, lapwings, cormorants, oyster catchers and gulls in addition to the iconic hooded plover.
Ducks are often sighted on the water, occasionally swans and pelicans. Recently a Beach Stone Curlew was resident.
The sand flats in particular are used by migratory waders which we have legal obligations to protect under national and international agreements. Wrens and other small birds are frequent occupants of the low coastal vegetation and mangroves, feeding on the many insects.
And yes, there are rabbits and
foxes too!
To present this area (the beach, the estuary and surrounding vegetation) as home only to vermin, unfit for birdlife due to pollution or inhabited by some “mysterious beast” is disingenuous and misleads readers.
Screw Creek is essentially a healthy estuary with a diverse array of native animals living in, on and around it.
The area contains a significant reservoir of remnant vegetation and rehabilitated bush that is important to conserve, especially given its proximity to the town, developmental pressures going on around it and the number of nature lovers and walkers who enjoy it.
The dog exclusion zone on the beach leading to the reserve logically should also include the bush reserve itself.
There is considerable evidence from Australia and around the world that dogs, particularly unrestrained dogs, affect wildlife badly.
Excluding dogs from this area, providing some small refuge for our shore birds and other wildlife seems very reasonable (particularly given the dog access given elsewhere and observations that indicate many owners continue to walk their dogs unrestrained).
Research strongly indicates that dogs are a major disturbance to native wildlife through predation, feeding and breeding disturbance and as disease vectors.
They may also influence vegetation through trampling, predation upon animals that browse certain species or spreading seeds via faeces or on their fur.
Estuary banks and vegetation is also at risk from wading dogs. Shorebirds, ground dwelling mammals and reptiles are most at risk.
Parks Victoria writes that dogs can disturb wildlife by their scents, sounds, scratching and digging and that their wastes may attract foxes. NSW Parks report lasting scents can easily scare small animals and birds away from their homes.
Shorebirds, with excellent sight, often are disturbed by dogs, particularly unrestrained dogs, from distances of 100 metres.
Interrupted feeding for such birds can seriously affect their own and offspring’s survival.
Dog exclusion areas were “on the table” from the start of the consultation process.
At the well-attended final community meeting in the hub, Screw Creek exclusion was discussed and there was almost unanimous acceptance that attendees could live with this restriction.
Robert Scott’s assertion that “councillors totally ignored the consultation meetings” is clearly ridiculous given that the Dog Plan addresses concerns and needs for all beach users.
As a dog owner I feel I have very adequate access to Inverloch’s beaches as long as I am prepared to restrain my dog when outside off-lead areas.
Within the “dog lobby” there appears to be a view that we need to go back to the ‘good old days’. There were no problems! Everyone was happy!
Dogs could go almost anywhere at all and not be on a lead. This included all Inverloch’s beaches. There were rules, but they were rarely adhered to nor effectively policed.
A vocal group of dog owners seem unable to accept that for many beach users, both people and wildlife, there were in fact significant issues with dogs.
Thus the status quo was not an acceptable option for a large part of our local and visiting populations and change was needed.
Some dog owners appear incapable of accepting any form of compromise. Compliance levels continue to be poor with unrestrained dogs visible on all beaches daily.
Disappointingly, a group, arguing they represent the majority of dog owners, continue to pedal misleading information: there’s no wildlife at Screw Creek! Selected off-lead area is inappropriate as it is reduced at high tide (which beaches aren’t!)! Council didn’t consult! Council consulted too much!
Shamefully a few in our community feel justified in reverting to abuse, threats and personal attack.
Our councillors, along with all members of our community, whatever their view of decisions made, should be treated with respect.
Debate on emotive issues such as this is best resolved by factual and honest contributions.
Rod Webster, Inverloch.