By ALLISON HORE
The Inner West council will not enforce a proposed new ban on off-leash dog walking in Callan Park, says Mayor Darcy Byrne.
Despite Callan park being used as an unofficial off-leash dog walking area for decades, the NSW government’s Greater Sydney Parklands Authority, which recently took control of the park, has warned dog owners off-leash dogs are illegal and they may cop a fine.
Mr. Byrne said fining dog walkers was a “ridiculous solution to a non existent problem” and said off-leash dogs pose “no safety problems” and there have been no conflicts between dog walkers and other park users.
“For many years, members of the public have been able to walk their dogs off-leash in Callan Park because it is exactly the sort of place where dogs can run freely without interfering with other park users,” he said.
“All of a sudden this new agency has decided that their first order of business is to start handing out fines to dog walkers, which is absurd and totally unnecessary.”
The Greater Sydney Parklands Authority made an announcement that they would be reviewing the conditions for dog walking in the 60-hectare Balmain parkland. Currently owners are only technically allowed to let their dogs off-leash on the park’s three sporting fields. However, most of the time these fields are being used by sporting clubs.
Despite the official rules, the community has been using the park as an off-leash play area for decades.
Rob Stokes barks back
Speaking on ABC radio, Planning and Public Spaces Minister Rob Stokes clarified that he did not request nor support the issuing of fines for anything other than “behaviour that is illegal and dangerous.” He said it is the role of the council to fullfill their responsibilities, but agreed it would be “ridiculous” for the council to target dog owners.
He said at the moment, the parklands authority is “doing the opposite” and opening up consultation for the community to have their say on the matter.
“What we’re trying to do is make sure that Callan Park is being properly managed, it hasn’t been for years because it hasn’t had a body to look after it with clear rules,” said Minister Stokes.
“The reality is, as the law currently stands dogs are supposed to be on leashes. We want to make sure that it’s legal and it’s possible for dogs to be off-leash.”
He said the parklands authority would continue to “have that conversation” with the community. He could not confirm or deny that off-leash dog walking would be allowed in the park following the review, however, he would support that outcome.
“[Off-leash walking being allowed] is certainly the outcome I would like to see,” he said.
“But until we do this process, the reality is, that if someone is injured or someone is bitten or if a dog is hurt, there are liabilities that could ultimately be borne by the taxpayer and that’s not right.”
Greater Sydney Parklands will hold a number of special workshops this month so pet owners can help inform the companion animal plan for the area. Dog owners can also have their say at “puppy pop-ups” across the park.