Kiama councillors have resolved to allow dogs to swim in the Minnamurra River on a trial basis, despite opposition from government agencies and council staff.
On Tuesday night, councillors voted 5-3 to allow a six-month trial, starting in September, where dogs will be able to swim ‘‘on-leash’’ from Trevethan Reserve before 9am and after 5pm.
It was the third time the matter had been debated by councillors.
This time, councillor Warren Steel said he was happy with the result.
‘‘It shows there is no such thing as can’t,’’ he said.
Cr Steel said dog owners currently face a $300 fine if their dog enters the river and there was nowhere in the Kiama municipality, north of Kiama, that dogs could swim in calm water.
‘‘The area we are talking about allowing dogs to swim in is only a small section of the river, about 50 metres long between the two bridges,’’ Cr Steel said.
Cr Steel had the support of fellow councillor Dennis Seage who said ‘‘we are talking domestic pets, not wild boars’’.
‘‘These are people’s pets, our ratepayers' pets,’’ he said.
‘‘There is a time limit proposed that doesn’t affect peak hours and I think it is a good idea.’’
However, Cr Mark Way said he had to support the position of the council’s companion animals committee.
It examined six reserves and four other potential riverside locations and found none met a criteria based on the standards required for ‘‘safe and effective controlled exercise of urbanised dogs’’.
‘‘It didn’t pass the criteria, as simple as that,’’ Cr Way said.
Cr Andrew Sloan argued if any area of the river was to be used by dogs, it should be up stream, away from the popular and sensitive areas in the lower part of the river.
A report from the council’s ranger services said Trevethan Reserve, which is used frequently by school study groups and sporting clubs, adjoins an area of mangroves and salt marsh that is regarded as an ecological endangered community.
‘‘The area has a high participation usage and doesn’t meet all the essential requirements of the criteria,’’ the report stated.
Kiama council’s general manager Michael Forsyth said a report would come back to the council next year after the conclusion of the trial.