Environment committee recommends changes to dog bylaw to balance needs of owners with local ecosystem

30/05/2020 2:29am

Nelson City Council’s Environment Committee has adopted the Dog Control Policy and also voted to recommend to Council the adoption of the Dog Control Bylaw, which was consulted on earlier this year.

Council will vote on adopting the amended Bylaw on 25 June, with the Bylaw expected to come into effect on 27 July 2020

The Policy and Bylaw aims to strike a balance between the wishes of dog owners, the welfare needs of dogs, wider public concerns, protection of local ecology, such as nesting shorebirds, and the grazing of sheep, which currently play an important role in weed management and fire prevention. As such, it considers where dogs should be allowed to be off-leash, on-leash or not allowed at all.
Councillor Kate Fulton, Chair of the Environment Committee says it is vital to manage the needs of dog owners with the natural environment.
“I know many dog owners are extremely mindful of their dog’s impact on the environment, and Council wants to ensure Nelsonians are able to enjoy our beautiful parks and reserves with their dogs alongside them. We must however protect and restore vulnerable parts of our ecosystem, and the changes to our bylaw will provide that protection.”
If adopted by Council, the amended bylaw will require dogs to be kept on-leash on land grazed with sheep in Council reserves, including small areas of the Grampians Reserve and Sir Stanley Whitehead Reserve. These areas will be sign-posted and dogs will be required to be kept on a leash even if sheep are not visible. There are still large areas within each reserve where dogs can exercise off-leash. 
This does not apply to the grazed areas of Paremata Flats Reserve, Maitai River Esplanade Reserve, and Tantragee Reserve, where dogs can be off-leash, but must still remain under control. This is because these are cattle grazing areas rather than sheep grazing areas. Dogs will also be allowed off-leash in the Titoki Reserve and Monaco Reserve, excluding the playground area.
The Paremata Flats planted area is an ecologically significant restoration project so will continue to be completely off-limits to dogs. The Delaware Estuary and margins and Whakatū Drive Foreshore Reserve will now be on-leash areas in order to increase protection of nesting shorebirds.
The Boulder Bank will be an on-leash area from Boulder Bank Drive south to the Cut, as well as dogs being prohibited from the Cut towards Boulder Bank Drive for 4 kilometres, from 15 August to the last day in February each year. This is the period critical for the nesting season of the vulnerable Banded Dotterel. The Boulder Bank north from Boulder Bank Drive to Glenduan and Glenduan Reserve will be off-leash, excluding the playground area.
“Nelson’s foreshore and estuaries are a haven for rare species of shore-nesting birds, and the Banded Dotterel needs particular protection due to its rarity and its earlier start to the breeding season,” says Councillor Fulton.
The number of dogs will continue to be restricted to two per household without the need for Council permission.
The Dog Control Policy has also increased dog registration fees to more accurately reflect the cost of staff time for dog registration processing, signage, recovery and impounding of wandering dogs, attending dog-related incidents and regular dog patrols.
Nelson City Council’s Long Term Plan requires 90% of the Dog Control budget to be met by fees, with 10% covered from the general rates. The new fees meet these criteria.
Following public consultation, Council has also decided to remove the Good Dog Owner Policy, but retain the $5 discount on registration fees for neutered dogs. The Good Dog Owner Policy has been removed because it has a high administration cost and the requirements for the discount replicate those already legally required by the Dogs Control Act. The removal of the policy will result in a more equitable fee structure for all dog owners, where those who infringe against the Dog Control Act will pay a greater share of the costs.
“All dog owners in Nelson are expected to be good dog owners, and this incentive suggested that the cost of being an irresponsible dog owner was minimal. The subsidy for being a good dog owner is now spread across all registration fees, so everyone benefits,” says Councillor Fulton.
This means that the new cost of a standard dog registration is $95.80  - up from $86 (or $66.20 for those previously on the Good Dog Owner Scheme). Neutered dogs are eligible for a $5 discount, so owners will pay a reduced fee of $90.80. 
These changes align Council’s dog registration fees with other councils of a similar size and reflect the true cost of these services.
Councillor Fulton says this is a fairer approach for ratepayers and dog owners.
“Whilst we understand it is a difficult time for many in our community, we feel it is still important that the cost of dog wellbeing and control doesn’t fall to the general ratepayer.”

Council understands COVID-19 has added significant additional financial pressure to many and is actively looking at ways to help our community navigate the impacts of the pandemic. Council has therefore extended the date where late penalties for dog registration fees apply from 1 August to 1 September this year to help dog owners to pay their registration fee as required by the Dog Control Act 1996.