Residents gathered at Bronte Promenade at the weekend to protest what they regard as excessive fines for walking their dogs in an area of Bronte Park.
A new policy issued by Waverley Council allows off-leash dog walking in certain areas of the park and gully between 3pm and 10am. Another area is reserved for on-leash dog walking, while dogs are prohibited in all other areas of the park except paths.
The changes were approved at an October 15 council meeting. Previously, dogs were banned from the park, except on the promenade. Waverley Mayor Sally Betts said she was surprised that dog owners would react in this manner.
“We thought we were doing a good thing by allowing dogs for the first time ever, because we were asked by the community to do that, and we discussed with the community where the on leash area should be, where the off-leash area should be,” she said.
“It’s quite strange that dog owners were unaware that this was going on.”
According to a council fact sheet, dog owners should “take the time to review signage and maps and understand where and when they can take their dogs both on and off leash across Bronte Park”.
But some residents complained that the only signage acknowledging the new policy is located in the gully area of the park. Dog owner Alyssa Stevenson was fined $320 for walking her dog in the wrong area. She said it isn’t just the policy that offends her and the community but the manner in which rangers are operating.
“I was looking away when they swiped my dog,” Ms Stevenson said.
“I explained to them I was unaware of the new policy after just coming home from being overseas, and that there were no signs around to tell me otherwise, but they did it without a warning.”
Deputy Mayor Tony Kay was present on Saturday to hear the complaints. Protesters demanded that existing fines be reduced to $80.00 and that dogs being walked on-leash should be allowed to roam in the community area.
Ms Stevenson argued the gully is not a safe area for people, especially children, to be walking their dogs after school.
“The gully is quiet, enclosed, and it will get dark. Something could easily happen to someone because the public may not be able to hear or see it,” she said.
“Later on when it’s not daylight savings, it will start getting dark at 5pm.”