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Dog fee backdown

KERRY GALLAGHER
Last updated 08:13 08/05/2012

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A backdown over dog owner licence fees is being hailed as a victory by Hibiscus and Bays Local Board member John Kirikiri.

The Auckland Council has agreed to keep dog fees the way they are rather than implement proposed increases in its long-term plan.

Mr Kirikiri, who says it's a small battle won, is now calling on dog owners to lobby Rodney councillor Penny Webster to support fair and reasonable fee increases in the future. Mrs Webster chairs the committee deciding dog fees.

The proposed fees would have seen registration for desexed dogs rise from $47 to $120 and from $53 to $160 for other dogs.

But about 4400 of the almost 10,000 submissions received on the council's draft 2012-2013 plan related to the proposed increases and removal of discounts for holders of dog owner licences.

The council voted to roll over current fees to the 2012-2013 year.

The fees will now only rise slightly in line with inflation until policies and bylaws are developed.

Only former North Shore mayor George Wood voted against keeping the status quo, believing the council had been pressured into a change.

The council considered two alternative proposals with slighter increases but these were still unpopular.

Mr Kirikiri says mayor Len Brown and other councillors said "that more work was needed".

"This is a pragmatic way of saying the council got it wrong. So if they got this wrong what else is wrong in this council?

"Perhaps the council's energy and priority should have been spent on creating a region-wide policy on dogs before trying to slip under the radar a dog fee structure that penalises responsible dog owners," he says.

Whangaparaoa dog owner Jill Parsons is relieved about the backdown. The increases would have meant registration for her two golden retrievers would have nearly doubled, from $47 or $90 each.

Ms Parsons is a licensed responsible dog owner, which means she had to meet certain criteria such as having her property fully fenced and passing a test.

She believes it is the irresponsible dog owners that should be penalised.

"It's only the people who are not responsible causing these costs. They can not say user pays when they are talking about costs that are not caused by the majority of dog owners."

Ms Parsons is also a member of the Stand Up Auckland Dog Owners Facebook page, set up in an effort to raise awareness of the fee increase and encourage action. The site had almost 800 members within three days.

Arkles Bay dog owner Jackie Tocher says the council must look for its funding from places other than just dogs.

This could mean a graded system of registration that better penalises those who refuse to comply with controls while rewarding improved responsibility. Other ideas are registration of horses kept in town and exercised on public areas.

"The council must change its culture to carrot and stick, with most emphasis on the carrot."

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