A majority of Kiama councillors have supported a call from Cr Warren Steel to ‘‘send back’’ a council report that recommends against allowing dogs on leashes to swim in the Minnamurra River.
The issue of allowing dogs to swim ‘‘on leash’’ in the river was first raised by Cr Steel in March, but after consulting with various agencies, council staff concluded that allowing dogs to swim in the river ‘‘would not be an appropriate activity for a highly popular family and tourist destination’’.
The Office of Environment and Heritage told council staff the Minnamurra River was a regionally significant estuary for migratory and resident shorebirds and human disturbance, including disturbance by domestic dogs, was recognised as a key threat for shorebird populations.
Cr Steel said the report should be sent back for staff to come up with a suitable area for dogs, possibly alongside the river on Riverside Drive opposite the golf course.
‘‘The Minnamurra River is 15 to 20 kilometres long,’’ Cr Steel said.
‘‘In our municipality there is nowhere north of Kiama that dogs can swim in calm water ... surely we can come up with an alternative for somewhere to swim.
‘‘I’m all for birdlife too but do we have 15 kilometres of birdlife to protect?’’
Cr Andrew Sloan opposed Cr Steel’s motion.
‘‘This proposal has been sent to various agencies and committees; everyone is saying there is nowhere appropriate for dogs to swim,’’ Cr Sloan said.
‘‘A lot of families and young children use that area ... and the idea that people will keep dogs on leads in the water is not going to happen.’’
Cr Sloan said he was relieved the lower area of the river would be excluded from further investigation but still had concerns about the impact on native fauna along the other parts of the river.
In 2011 the Minnamurra River estuary was identified in the landmark Illawarra Biodiversity Strategy as one of 14 ‘‘high priority’’ sites for environmental restoration works.
The estuary is described by the Office of Environment and Heritage as being in good condition ‘‘but under pressure’’.
Cr Steel rejected a suggestion from council staff that the dog swimming issue be part of the current review of the Minnamurra Estuary Management Plan.