Public exhibition

Council has developed a Draft Dogs In Open Space Action Plan (DIOSAP) to improve opportunities for Off Leash Areas on the Central Coast. 

This Action Plan will ensure that Council has a well-considered long-term framework for future land planning, management and prioritisation of infrastructure, whilst also providing clear criteria and direction for development to ensure there are adequate areas to accommodate dog exercise locally. 

It’s important to understand your responsibilities as a dog owner when taking your pet to public spaces, so that the whole community can enjoy safe and peaceful access to our beaches, parks and open spaces. This draft Action Plan allows the community to provide input and feedback on the allocation of dedicated off-leash (OLAs) and fenced off-leash areas (FOLAs), to provide areas for pets to enjoy some time off-leash, under the close supervision of their owner.

Have your say 

As an LGA with high rates of dog ownership, we know that our community is very interested in the provision of infrastructure and open spaces that support responsible dog ownership. 

The community is invited to: 

Submissions are to be addressed to the Chief Executive Officer, Mr David Farmer between 1 July and 26 August 2022 via: 

We value your opinion and will use your feedback to inform the final Dogs In Open Space Action Plan.

When providing feedback to Council your attention is drawn to the provisions of the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 which allows for possible access to certain public and personal documentation. View our privacy statement.
 

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Public exhibition: Draft Dogs In Open Space Action Plan
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Samantha Cummins

What is a Dogs In Open Space Action Plan? 

The Dogs in Open Space Action Plan (DIOSAP) provides Council with a 10-year planning framework that will guide decision-making about how and where provision will be made for dog owners and their dogs, and includes:

  • A discussion of issues and opportunities relating to dogs in public open space, in particular:
    • Additional Off Leash Areas (OLAs) recommended to address gaps in the off-leash network, and OLAs that are recommended for decommissioning or relocation
    • Compliance, management and operational requirements
    • Community education and information requirements
  • A statement of the principles that will guide planning of opportunities for dog owners and their dogs
  • A summary of the benefits and challenges of different provision options for dogs off-leash, including unfenced, partially and fully fenced options and sites from which dogs should be excluded 
  • A policy and planning framework
  • An Action Plan that includes strategies to address the findings of the project

Why do we need a Dogs In Open Space Action Plan? 

This Action Plan has been developed in recognition of the high rates of dog ownership within the Central Coast local government area and will provide Council with a 10-year planning framework that will allow for considered implementation of identified actions.  The strategy has been prepared in consideration of the broader community diversity of demands that are placed on the open space network.

What information was used to inform the development of the draft Dogs In Open Space Action Plan? 

Over the past 18 months, Council has been consulting with the community on a range of topics including the Responsible Dog Ownership policy, Helen Reserve, Gorokan – dog park, Our Coast, Our Waterways and the rate rise discussions. During these conversations with the community, dogs as well as infrastructure and the environment were explored. We have used the information collected throughout our own consultation activities as well as industry best practice and learnings from other local Councils to inform the development of the draft Dogs In Open Space Action Plan. 
 

Does the draft Dogs In Open Space Action Plan propose any changes to the existing Off Leash Areas? 

Yes. The draft Action Plan proposes modifications to the boundary of ten Off Leash Area sites. These changes are recommended to:

  • Clearly define OLAs using site landmarks
  • Define sportsfields where dogs are prohibited from entering in line with the CAA and Council Orders
  • Reinforce the regulatory requirements to keep dogs on a leash on footpaths

OLAs will continue to be reviewed to ensure boundaries minimise any conflict with off-leash activities.

The sites identified, together with the rationale for boundary changes are outlined below: 

  • North Avoca Beach
    • Extension south to ‘shark tower’
    • The shark tower is a landmark that easily identifies the OLA boundary. 
  • Greenvale Rd Reserve, Green Point
    • Extend the size of the OLA from 0.14Ha to 0.30 Ha. 
  • Colongra Bay Reserve, Lake Munmorah
    • Reduction to exclude dogs from sportsfields and natural environments and removal of fencing (apart from along roadside). 
  • Peppercorn Ave Reserve, Woongarrah
    • To provide the required 10m buffer around playspace and exclude north to south pathway from the OLA. 
  • Mataram Ridge Park, Woongarrah 
    • Relocation within the park to the North-east quadrant of the park
    • Removes conflict with sensitive flora and fauna environments in existing area
    • Evidence of significant use by dogs off-leash in proposed area   
    • Picnic area no longer operational. 
  • Craigie Reserve, Kanwal
    • To require dogs to be kept on a leash in car park, toilet and entry roadway/pathways.
  • Adcock Memorial Park, West Gosford
    • To reinforce the requirement for dogs to be on a leash on footpaths.
  • Thames Dr Reserve, Erina
    • To reinforce the requirement for dogs to be on a leash on footpaths.
  • James Watt Dr Drainage Easement, Chittaway Bay
    • To reinforce the requirement for dogs to be on a leash on footpaths.
  • Oberton Street Reserve, Kincumber
    • To reinforce the requirement for dogs to be on a leash on footpaths.

Does the draft Dogs In Open Space Action Plan propose the removal of any existing Off Leash Areas? 

Yes. The Central Coast is constrained in finding provision opportunities because of limitations associated with sensitive environments, National Parks, the availability of appropriate sites within residential catchments, and the geography and topography of the area. 

Historically, LGAs have attempted to accommodate requests by residents for off-leash access to parks without a full understanding of the implications particularly relating to:

  • conflict with other recreation activities 
  • risk management considerations relating to proximity of OLAs to trails/pathways, roads/ carparks and cliff tops
  • proximity to sensitive flora and fauna habitats
  • sites that are too small
  • assumptions that owners would be able to control their dogs in line with regulations and in consideration of other parks users.  

As a result, often unsuitable sites were set aside for off-leash activities. In addition, there has been a significant shift in community attitudes and expectations in relation to the control of dogs and the impact they can have on sensitive environments and community enjoyment of public open space.

The draft DIOSAP report has identified six sites that should be decommissioned as OLAs and, where possible alternative sites identified within the catchment provided. The sites identified, together with the rationale for decommissioning or relocating are outlined below: 

  • Illoura Reserve, Davistown
    • The site is recognised as having environmental significance because it is one of the few nesting sites on the Central Coast for the Bush Stone Curlew. Council has proposed that the existing protected area be extended into the parkland and to include water shallows associated with the protected area.
    • There is poor compliance with leashing regulations along pathways and foreshore areas leading to the reserve. In addition, Council has received ongoing complaints from: 
      • residents about the poor control of dogs at this site, including owners who let dogs run onto private property
      • from other trail and park users, including concerned dog walkers. 
    • The site is isolated and difficult for Council staff to monitor for compliance with leashing regulations
    • Council recognises that the reserve and foreshore areas leading to it are attractive and popular with residents. For this reason, the DIOSAP does not recommend the exclusion of dogs but rather the leashing of dogs in the reserve and along pathways adjoining the reserve.
    • An additional OLA site within the Illoura reserve catchment is proposed at Pine Ave Reserve (Davistown/Saratoga)
  • Terrigal Haven, Terrigal
    • Terrigal Haven attracts high levels of visitation, particularly in summer and holiday periods. 
    • This site has been the subject of ongoing and intense complaints about the conflict between dogs and other users of the site. Complaints relate to dogs being off the leash in on-leash areas, dogs not being appropriately controlled on pathways, dogs off the leash in car parks and associated accidents, and the lack of control of dogs around cliff tops.
    • The natural amenity of the site has been severely impacted by dog activity because of its gradient
    • From an industry perspective this is an inappropriate site for an OLA because it presents several risk management considerations relating to:
      • high levels of constant vehicle activity within immediate proximity
      • the proximity of high pedestrian traffic areas along its boundary and associated pathways
      • the proximity of cliff edges
    • It is not possible to maintain the amenity of the site because of its gradient with continued off-leash activity. It is not recommended that the site be fenced or partially fenced to address these risk management issues because the amenity and primary function of the site would be significantly compromised. 
    • Council recognises that this site is popular with residents and visitors, including dog owners. For this reason, the DIOSAP does not recommend the exclusion of dogs from Terrigal Haven but rather the leashing of dogs in the reserve and along pathways adjoining the reserve.
    • An additional OLA site within the Terrigal Haven catchment is proposed at Duffy’s Road.
  • Fagan Reserve, Point Clare 
    • Relocation of the OLA to Karrawa Reserve (Pt. Clare) to remove conflict with sporting activity and close proximity to Brisbane Water Drive.
  • Lees Reserve, Chittaway Bay
    • This is a densely vegetated site that forms part of riparian Ourimbah Creek Corridor vegetation that is being regenerated for catchment protection
    • There is no evidence that the site is used for dog walking/off-leash activities
  • Kariong Recreation Reserve, Kariong
    • In line with the master plan for this reserve, a playspace and skatepark facility are being constructed in the 2022/23 financial year. These activities are not compatible with dogs off-leash and there is insufficient space available to enable a 10 mt buffer zone between these activities and dog off-leash activities.
    • The state government owner Mount Penang Gardens site is within a 15-minute walk of the current site and offers a 1.4 Ha fenced off-leash area.
  • McEvoy Drainage Easement, Umina Beach
    • Conflicts with shared use thoroughfare
    • Not currently listed as an OLA on Council’s website/promotional material.

Does the draft Dogs In Open Space Action Plan propose any new Off Leash Areas? 

Yes. The draft Dogs In Open Space Action Plan includes a proposal for thirteen additional Off Leash Areas:

  • Pine Ave Reserve, Davistown/Saratoga
    • To address gap in provision
    • To accommodate the relocation of OLA from Illoura Reserve. 
  • Duffy’s Road Reserve, Terrigal 
    • To address gap in provision 
    • To accommodate the relocation of the OLA from Terrigal Haven. 
  • Adelaide St Reserve, Killarney Vale 
    • To address a gap in provision. 
  • Robertson Rd, Killarney Vale
    • To address a gap in provision. 
  • Wattle St Reserve, Toukley 
    • To address a gap in provision. 
  • Tunkuwallin Reserve (Kanangra Dr), Gwandalan 
    • To address a gap in provision, site will need significant development prior to use. 
  • Warwick Ave Reserve, Mannering Park  
    • To address a gap in provision. 
  • Karrawa Reserve, Point Claire 
    • To address a gap in provision. 
    • To accommodate the relocation of the OLA from Fagan Reserve. 
  • Caraval St Reserve, Hamlyn Terrace 
    • To address a gap in provision considering development of Warnervale area
  • Watanobbi Knoll
    • To address a gap in provision. 
  • Lara Cl, Ourimbah
    • To address a gap in provision. 
  • Linga Longa Reserve, Yarramalong 
    • To address a gap in provision. 
  • Hilltop Park, Woongarrah 
    • To address a gap in provision considering development of Warnervale area. 

Why is Council proposing a change to the OLA at Illoura Reserve, Davistown? 

Illoura Reserve in Davistown is recognised as having environmental significance for the Bush Stone Curlew (BSC) as it is considered both a historically and currently important site, and is one of the few remaining suitable nesting sites on the Central Coast. A suitable nesting site, for example, is within the population’s known range, with suitable habitat present and which isn’t currently occupied by a nesting pair, among other features. Illoura Reserve is considered to be key habitat which meets breeding requirements for the BSC, and is a historically important site for the relict Brisbane Water population. While there may not be a current nesting pair at this site, nesting has either been unsuccessful or not attempted as a result of site pressures; primarily the impact posed by off-leash dogs. As such, excluding dogs from the reserve (in combination with fencing and weed control) is considered a key management action.
 
Rileys Island is within a suitable territory (home range) for the BSC, however is not an identified suitable nesting site. Rileys Island does not provide suitable nesting habitat due to mangrove encroachment and other factors which threaten nesting at this site. With the right environmental management actions, including the exclusion or implementation of control (via leash) of dogs in combination with fencing and weed control, suitable nesting sites can be cultivated. 
 
While sites including Saratoga Island, Pelican Island, Rileys Island, St Huberts Island, Cockle Creek and the Kincumber Broadwater are within Bush Stone Curlew territory and provide favourable foraging and roosting habitat, they do not provide suitable nesting habitat, and without successful nesting, a population declines until it is no longer viable or becomes extinct. 

Why does the Dogs In Open Space Action Plan suggest the removal or minimal use of fencing for off leash areas? 

The way Councils accommodate dogs in public spaces is being reconsidered as attitudes towards dogs and the role they play in the wider community changes. As multiple other activities compete for finite open space, a comprehensive understanding of the implications of each provision opportunity must be assessed. These factors relate to dog and human behaviour, dog owner attitudes to the control of dogs in different environments, the likely level of use of different off-leash environments, and planning that is not informed by good practice.

Fencing of off-leash areas is often a response to requests from dog owners who cannot or will not control their dogs in line with regulations, or as a result of complaints from people about unwanted approaches from dogs. Fencing is often seen as an effective and immediate response to localised complaints or requests without understanding that these issues are likely to be commonplace across all public environments, not just in open space.

Does the draft Dogs In Open Space Action Plan recommend dogs be excluded from all beaches? 

No. The DIOSAP proposes that in line with the Companion Animal Act, to preserve public amenity and address risk management issues, that:

  • dogs be excluded from patrolled beach areas and for 20m either side, including sand dunes extending to the waterline as a minimum 
  • dogs be excluded from all beaches if not designated Off Leash Areas.
  • consideration be given to restricting access to dogs on a seasonal basis to popular beaches that fall within designated ‘dog off-leash’ areas.

How is ‘effective control’ of dogs defined? 

The NSW CAA requires dog owners to keep their dog under ‘effective control’ but does not provide any criteria that defines the meaning of ‘effective control’. 
The DIOSAP recommends that Council create an Order that clearly defines expectations relating to the control of dogs: 

Action 27: Consider the incorporation of some or all of the following requirements in a Council Order to effectively define ‘effective control’ of dogs:

  • In on-leash areas
    Dogs must:
    • be always held on a leash and in line with CAA age and capability requirements
    • be on a short leash (max 1.5 m) when on or within 5m of footpaths or trails
    • not be tethered to a fixed place or object
  • In off-leash areas
    • Dogs can only be off the leash if they always immediately respond/recall to owner’s voice and/or hand commands
    • Dogs must remain:
      • within 100 m of their owner or guardian (?)
      • within clear sight of their owner or guardian (?)
    • Dogs must not:
      • run or rush at another dog or person
      • make unwanted approaches to another dog or person
      • be allowed into ‘dog exclusion’ areas

Does the draft Dogs In Open Space Action Plan consider future population growth? 

Yes. According to the NSW Government registration database there are currently 55,257 registered dogs living on the Central Coast. Industry research indicates there is likely to be over 10,000 additional dogs residing in the Local Government Area that are not registered. By 2032 there is likely to be over 80,000 dogs residing on the Central Coast.  

The draft Dogs In Open Space Action Plan has been developed in consideration of these figures. 

The draft Dogs In Open Space Action Plan identifies discrepancies in the number of dogs on the Central Coast. Why? 

The lifetime animal registration fee levied by the NSW State Government, as opposed to an annual registration  fee, means deceased and relocated pets are not identifiable from database records. As a result, dogs registered in 1988 remain on the NSW Government database even though they are deceased. This makes it difficult to determine the number of dogs that are on the database and living on the Central Coast. Only dogs listed on the registration database as of 2008 were included in dog population counts for the DIOSAP. These 55,257 dogs are likely to be an overestimation on the basis that dogs have an average lifespan of 11/12 years. According to Animal Medicines Australia (AMA) the ‘owned’ dog population in Australia however is likely to be significantly higher than is reflected on registration data bases around the country. AMA research and information suggests there are likely to be over 65,000 dogs residing in Central Coast households. This is at least 10,000 more dogs than registration estimates. If estimations are applied to future household numbers, dog numbers on the Central Coast could be in excess of 80,000 by 2032.

The draft Dogs In Open Space Action Plan lists a number of actions, how will these actions be funded? 

Council staff will continue to explore funding opportunities to deliver the actions identified in the strategy in accordance with their listed priority. This may be through funding available in Council’s recurrent annual budget (Operational Plan) or via other external funding opportunities (eg. Grants) as they become available. 

The DIOSAP will be reviewed every 2 years to ensure that new and emerging needs are identified and addressed.

Why has a plan been developed if there is no funding to deliver the actions identified? 

Ideally, all plans and strategies of Council would have full funding secured before development and adoption, but this is unrealistic.  Often, Council’s are only eligible for grants if there are adopted actions identified in a Council endorsed strategy.  It is also best to identify appropriate community outcomes that are complete are not necessarily limited by todays funding.  In order for Council to allocate funding in the annual budgets or attract funding from external sources such as grant funding, it is a significant advantage for an adopted strategy or plan to be in place. 

The exhibition of the Draft Dogs In Open Space Action Plan provides the community with an opportunity to let Council know if we’ve got it right. Once the Dogs In Open Space Action Plan is adopted, Council will explore funding opportunities to deliver the actions identified in the Action Plan in accordance with their listed priority. 
 

How can I have my say on the draft Dogs In Open Space Action Plan? 

The community are invited to have their say on the draft Dogs In Open Space Action Plan between 1 July and 26 August 2022. This can be done by: 

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