Dog lovers force electors meeting over beach ban

COCKBURN’S dog lovers have proposed a “time-share” plan so they can walk their leashed pets between jetties during Coogee Beach’s quiet times.

Residents of Cockburn for Dogs (ROC for Dogs) co-founder Matt de Pinto says they haven’t given up their fight to get their dogs back on the beach following a ban imposed by Cockburn council on the Woodman Point stretch last October; he says it’s stripped them of their “social identity” and has left him questioning his loyalty to the city.

“During a tough year many used this beach to wind down as I did – it was the one freedom I enjoyed with my dog as did many others,” Mr de Pinto said.

He believes the council shirked its responsibility towards the mental health needs of its residents in favour of a questionable environmental outcome; the council cited the disturbance of fairy tern nests as the main reason behind the ban.

Fairy terns

Fairy terns gather in colonies across the WA coast from October to March and are listed as a species “vulnerable” to mass nesting failure through human disturbance. Even after nesting, it takes fledglings up to 43 days to get airborne, leaving them vulnerable to four-wheel drives, trampling – and dogs, who can chase parents from the nest and leave the youngsters exposed to over-heating.

But ROC for Dogs say they haven’t seen the terns near Woodman Point for years.

President Anthony Certoma put up a unanimously-supported motion at February’s annual meeting of electors calling for a reversal of the ban, and says not getting past being “noted” by councillors only served to “strengthen our resolve”.

They’ve now got a petition of 850 signatures calling for the stretch between Ammo Jetty and Cockburn Cement’s jetty to be reopened to dogs on leashes and have just collected enough signatures to forcing the council to a special electors’ meeting on June 29.

Mr Certoma also proposed the time-share plan, based on a model already being used by the Surf Coast Shire in Victoria, and says it could work between the Woodman Point and Coogee Beach jetties.

He’s suggested the beach could be opened to leashed dogs before 8am and after 6pm from October to March, and all day during the cooler months from April and September when swimming’s not so popular.

“We have suggestions for a range of different enforcement options as well as a way to raise additional funds to finance the employment of an additional ranger to patrol and police the on-leash requirement,” Mr Certoma said.

He says some in authority appear to believe people can’t own dogs and care for the environment at the same time, which he rejects.

Murdoch University conservation biologist and ornithologist Claire Greenwell believes the existing ban should stay.

“Not all beaches are equal in the habitat they provide for wildlife, and Woodman Point is an important site for a range of resident and migratory bird species,” she said.

“Ultimately, promoting biodiversity conservation while allowing dogs on beaches is paradoxical.”

by JESSICA WILSON and STEVE GRANT

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