Board seeks early dog bylaw review

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    THE Te Anau community, reeling from the effects of border closures and Covid-19 restrictions, is desperate to make the township more visitor-friendly, especially for pet owners.

    The Fiordland Community Board called for an early review of the bylaw, which does not
    allow dogs on the township’s main street.

    At its meeting on Tuesday, Southland District Council (SDC) members declined an early review and voted in favour of the council staff’s recommendation to maintain the present
    bylaw due to be reviewed in 2025.

    The Fiordland Community Board report says one third of New Zealanders are dog owners:
    “Having a dog control bylaw which did not permit dogs in the main street of Te Anau may
    cause people to choose to go elsewhere, rather than visit Te Anau or Fiordland.”

    “It is the view of the Fiordland Community Board that having the main street area of Te
    Anau prohibited to dogs is impacting the appeal of the town to domestic tourists in
    particular.”

    The board explained the affects of border closures had been “acute and continues to have
    significant ramifications” on the region which is heavily reliant on the tourism industry.

    Cr Karyn Owen said she had encountered visitors at the Riverton Information Centre
    who had said they didn’t stay in Te Anau because they could not find dog-friendly
    accommodation and did not feel it was that welcoming to people travelling with pets.

    But SDC staff told council members a law change was not possible because it was legally
    required to first undergo public consultation and SDC staff did not have capacity to deal
    with it in its 2022 work plans — it recommended the bylaw be reviewed on schedule in
    2025.

    SDC had investigated if the bylaw could be amended to allow dogs on a leash, but the Local
    Government Act would not allow it.

    If SDC decided a law change was to take priority, then other work would need to be
    deferred to create capacity with the staff.

    Cr Abel Kremer thought to delay a review until 2025 was too long and asked council to
    reconsider as it had ample time to forward plan to include the review in its work plan next year.

    ‘‘To wait for a whole three years is a little unrealistic considering the situation here in Te
    Anau.”

    But he was willing to concede to a temporarily postponement of any definitive action until
    the issue could be looked at in its totality rather than isolation as he recognised an early review could have a compounding effect on other work priorities for council staff.

    SDC chief executive Cameron McIntosh defended his staff members’ recommendations.

    “We have tried to find a way to assist the Te Anau community with this matter and we have come up short. We cannot find a way to do it.’’

    Dog bylaws traditionally attracted many public submissions voicing strong views.

    There was also the possibility the bylaw would not change even after  the correct
    processes were followed, Mr McIntosh said.

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