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Dog owners to get say about changes

Last updated 05:00 04/03/2014
Dogs at Botanic Gardens
Anna Loren
RESTRICTED ACCESS: Off-leash dogs could soon be forbidden beyond this line of trees at the Auckland Botanic Gardens.

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Dog owners will get the chance to have their say about any changes to the off-leash area at the Auckland Botanic Gardens.

The Manukau Courier has received a deluge of letters from disappointed locals since breaking news of the proposal last month.

It seeks to reduce the off-leash zone in the gardens, separating off-leash dogs from areas with high numbers of human visitors.

The move comes after six dog attacks, including one on a child, were formally recorded at the gardens in the past year.

Readers' concerns range from a lack of consultation on the issue to inadequate space to properly socialise dogs and no pathways or seating for elderly and disabled dog walkers.

But Auckland Council regional and specialist parks manager Mace Ward has been quick to reassure dog owners they will be consulted.

He says dog bylaws are being reviewed across the region and any proposed change at the gardens will be put forward as part of the wider review and will be subject to public consultation.

"The timing for this is some way away - potentially 2015-16," he says.

Meanwhile, a group of dog walkers has started a petition to stop the changes.

Goodwood Heights woman Hilary Stollery says she hopes people will back the cause.

The vast majority of dog walkers at the gardens are responsible and they shouldn't suffer because of the actions of a few, she says.

"If there is a problem with an aggressive-type dog, we make our feelings known to the owner and they don't come back," she says.

"It's terrible if a child has been bitten but there's no point in punishing us."

The proposal will be considered by Auckland Council's parks, sports and recreation committee in a few months. Mayor Len Brown says he understands the dog owners' concerns but hopes they will be "a bit patient" as the council tries to figure out a way forward.

Councillors will try to balance everybody's needs but "one attack is an attack too many. As custodians of the safety of our kids in our community, when someone is attacked we need to stop and think about it - ‘have we got the rules right?' If we need to make some changes, we'll do so but in a measured way."

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- Manukau Courier

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