Off-leash: safe for now
DOGS and their owners will enjoy the same freedom as before on the coast's beaches after Tweed Shire Council scrapped plans to reduce more than a kilometre of off-leash dog areas.
At Thursday's council meeting, councillors voted to defer a decision on reducing dog off-leash areas and "go back to the drawing board" after outrage from the community saw the council defer a plan which would reduce 1240 metres of off-leash dog areas along the coast.
The decision came as part of recommendations made in council's draft Open Space Strategy, which planned to limit off-leash areas along beaches in Kingscliff, Fingal Head, Cabarita and Pottsville.
Council voted to defer the item for a workshop where staff could receive more information on "records of people impacted by dog attacks, records of wildlife impacts, areas where threatened species occur and options for alternative management strategies".
Tweed Shire Mayor Katie Milne said the issue had caused the "largest outcry from the community that we've seen".
"What council recommended were quite dramatic changes which could impact a lot of people in the shire," Cr Milne said.
"I think if we don't have the community on board they won't obey it anyway and we don't have the resources to enforce that."
Cr Chris Cherry said the community was mostly concerned with the 3km stretch of beach, currently designated as off-leash, between Kingscliff and Fingal Head.
She said she had "heard more about this issue than any other issue I've heard in council".
"We need to go back to the drawing board and it's important we get it right, it's not something we can impose on the community," she said.
But Cr Pryce Allsop argued the plan had already gone to community consultation and residents had rated the environment and endangered species as a "high priority for the area".
"It's not like dogs are being cut off, they just need to be on-leash, I believe the strategy should go out and we deal with the backlash and then adjust it from there," he said.
"Of course people had strong feelings about it, that's how it became a strategy, if we're going to look after endangered species we need to have a strategy and this seems to be a pretty good one."
Cr James Owen said he had also received an "overwhelming" amount of correspondence over the issue and urged council to publicly consult the community before deferring the issue for a workshop.
"Let's get out there and see what the people have to say," he said.
"The total number of dog attacks in 2016 was 56 and 2017 was 91, that's a significant issue, there are issues out there and we need to have a look at them."