Lack of a quorum a leash for council

TRACY NEAL
Last updated 13:00 08/11/2012

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A council meeting scheduled this week to discuss submissions on dog control rules in Nelson did not proceed after not enough councillors turned up.

A workshop was held instead when there were too few councillors to form a quorum to deliberate on submissions to the draft dog control policy and bylaw review.

More than 300 submissions were received by Nelson City Council from people wanting another say on the amended draft dog control policy and bylaw. It replaced that sent out for public consultation earlier this year, after councillors decided to fine tune the proposal and go back to the public out of concern the decision could have been open to legal challenge to the consultation process.

Deputy mayor Ali Boswijk, who chaired Tuesday's meeting, was one of only six councillors who turned up within the legal timeframe allowed to form a quorum for a council meeting.

She made the call to hold a workshop, with the aim of providing guidance to council staff on the discussion.

Council staff and members of the public had set aside time to attend the meeting.

Mrs Boswijk was joined by councillors Ian Barker, Pete Rainey, Mike Ward, Kate Fulton and Derek Shaw. Councillor Eric Davy notified the meeting of his intended late arrival, while apologies were not received from Paul Matheson or Jeff Rackley.

Mr Barker advised against continuing, on the grounds it could lead to problems.

"It's dangerous if something has the potential to be challenged. The limited number of councillors here make this risky - people who may be aggrieved could take issue with this," Mr Barker said.

Mrs Boswijk said councillors could discuss the submissions in a workshop format but could not make a recommendation to the council.

"Our focus is going to be methodical and we have to turn our minds to every submission made to ensure we are considering all," she said.

The councillors discussed a key focus of the submissions which revolved around whether dogs should be on or off leads in popular dog walking areas, including horticultural parks, cemeteries, beside state highways and on urban streets and footpaths, the mudflats at Delaware Inlet, along the Maitai walkway, and around the playing area of sports fields.

Many submitters felt dogs should be on leads in horticultural parks, which sparked considerable debate among councillors, who felt an exception could be made at Isel Park. The council's 2004 policy and bylaw states dogs should be on leads in these areas, but the council proposes changing the rule to off-lead.

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Mr Rainey said consistency was important and dogs should be on leads in all horticultural parks.

"My suggestion is that dogs should be on lead in these areas. Commonsense should prevail."

Mr Barker said asking people to put their dogs on a lead there was like asking people to "push their bikes down a cycleway".

Ms Fulton said in an overview of all the discussion around dogs that the onus was on dog owners to be as responsible as they could, while the council was trying to allow as much freedom as possible.

The workshop will be used to guide council staff on bringing back a revised document for the council to adopt as it stands, or with changes.

- Nelson

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