Wollongong council changes dog access areas

More Wollongong beaches would become dog-free zones - especially on weekends and public holidays - under proposed changes to Wollongong City Council's controversial dogs on beaches and parks policy.

However, in an attempt to balance the clashing views of residents, the number of off-leash dog parks would be doubled.

At Monday night's meeting, councillors voted to place a raft of changes on public exhibition for 60 days.

The current policy uses a "traffic light" system to control dog access to beaches, where green means dogs are allowed to roam free, orange means they are allowed on-leash at certain times and red means they are banned.

Under the proposed changes, Bellambi boat harbour would be changed from green to red, while the area between Sharkeys Beach and the Headlands boat ramp in Coledale would be changed from orange to red.

At the suggestion of Councillor Chris Connor, Sharkeys, Little Austinmer and McCauleys beaches would become timed orange zones, while dogs would be banned from Stanwell Park Beach on weekends and public holidays.

"I am not against having dogs on the beach per se, but I want to put [a policy] out into the community that has the capacity of being recognised as a great compromise," he said.

Cr Connor said the council needed to provide double the number of off-leash parks to balance its restricted canine beach access.

He said these parks should be placed in West Dapto, to accommodate its growing population, as well as other areas of the city to stop the need for people to take their dogs to the beach for an off-leash walk.

The proposed changes attracted three passionate speakers at the meeting's public access forum.

Resident Margaret King was visibly emotional as she spoke to councillors, saying Sharkeys used to be a "unique beach with strong community spirit".

The current policy had "killed this community spirit," she said, noting some families had moved and many had stopped taking children to the beach.

Ms King said she had "witnessed a woman being peed on" by a dog, and said her husband was attacked and told to "go f--- yourself" when he fought off the dog.

Coledale resident Ron McMaster also urged councillors to take a balanced approach at Sharkeys, saying "the green zone must go".

Stanwell Park dog advocate Cherin Sherro said dog ownership was treated like smoking and drinking - in that it was legal but highly policed - and urged the council to take a different approach.

He said pets provided significant health benefits, providing exercise and reducing depression, anxiety and heart disease risk.


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