By ALLISON HORE
The Waverley council will investigate options for a new location for dogs to play in the water to address the shortage of off-leash dog friendly spots around Bondi.
This comes after the council’s Strategic Planning and Development Committee voted to maintain the prohibition on dogs at Mackenzies Bay, a rocky inlet just North of Tamarama beach.
Despite being a popular spot for locals to let their dogs off their leashes, man’s best friend has technically been prohibited from the bay for years. But the pooch prohibition hasn’t stopped many publications from listing Mackenzie’s Bay as “dog friendly”, with Nine Honey listing the beach as one of “Sydney’s best dog-friendly swimming spots”.
But over the past year council has started to crackdown on canines, prompting the community to campaign for the pup prohibition to be lifted.
Hearing the community’s concerns, in August and September the Waverley council ran community consultation sessions to gauge support on the prospect of allowing dogs to play in the bay. In an online survey conducted by council, 83 percent of residents indicated they were “generally for” an off-leash dog trial at Mackenzie’s Bay.
Unsuitable for play
However, despite a majority of the community supporting the idea of a trial, in November the council resolved the location was “unsuitable” for an off-leash dog area.
In their decision the council said the area lacked necessary facilities, was not accessible to people who are less mobile and the slippery rocks and strong posed a hazard to both dog owners and dogs. They said were Mackenzies Bay to become an official off-leash dog area it would have to be promoted as such on the council’s website which would encourage more people to visit the spot.
“Given the hazardous nature of Mackenzies Bay, as outlined the Coastal Risk and Safety Signage Report, actively encouraging a greater number of people to come here would likely lead to greater safety risks,” the planning committee report argued.
They also said the presence of off-leash dogs is already damaging the bay’s “fragile” flora and fauna, despite being prohibited. Council say the bay contains remnant vegetation and is an important resting and nesting spot for native coastal birds.
Before the council began official consultations on lifting the prohibition, over 1,200 people signed a petition created by Waverley local, Joshua Faulks, calling for Mackenzies Bay to be made dog friendly. Mr. Faulks said all dog owners in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs are aware of the “chronic shortage” of dog friendly beaches in the city.
“These dog owners are a big influential group of voters and it is time to influence some change at Waverley Council about the no dogs policy at MacKenzies Bay,” he said.
Waverley mayor Paula Masselos acknowledged the overwhelming support for the off leash dog area at Mackenzies Bay but said the environmental, safety and accessibility issues are ones “which Council cannot simply ignore”. She suggested the majority of the support for the off-leash dog trial stemmed from a lack of dog-friendly water play spots in the area in general, rather than a specific enthusiasm for Mackenzies Bay.
“Waverley’s draft Open Space and Recreation Strategy identifies benefits of pet ownership to people’s health and wellbeing and has identified a shortfall of off-leash areas in the Bondi Basin north of Mackenzies Bay,” she explained.
“While Mackenzies Bay is unsuitable for an off-leash area, Council will continue investigating options to provide more off-leash facilities in appropriate locations.”
Ms. Masselos suggested while the council looked for more suitable spots to establish an off-leash dog area the community take water-loving pups to one of other off-leash zones nearby.
“We encourage dog owners to continue enjoying our nine existing off-leash dog areas in Waverley Local Government Area, including Marks Park and Bronte Park which respectively are only 350 metres and 750 metres away from Mackenzies Bay.”