Making Christchurch dog-friendly

Last updated 05:00 28/12/2013
Invercargill Dog Park
DOG'S DAY OUT: Kathleen Crisley says Christchurch needs more dog parks like this one which recently opened in Invercargill.

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What's your vision for Christchurch? Kathleen Crisley hopes for a more dog and people-friendly city.

Christchurch has a unique opportunity to make the rebuilt central city dog-friendly.

New Zealand has a fairly high rate of dog ownership with one in three households owning a dog. This statistic makes the dog owner a major interest group when considering the city's rebuild.

Some people feel that having a dog-accessible city will mean they'll be inconvenienced by ill-trained dogs, dogs running amok, and leftover 'gifts' on the footpaths. These are misconceptions.

The opportunity

Plans for the north and east frames, and the Avon River precinct, present opportunities for good urban design principles that allow and encourage responsible dog ownership. Good design can help minimise conflicts between dogs and their owners and citizens who have other needs. The focus would be to ensure responsible dog ownership was expected as the norm.

Access issues

Regardless of whether a dog owner lives in the central city area or not, there are owners who will want to take advantage of the green space that the new compact city design will offer.

This green space could be considered a smaller version of the Emerald Necklace network of parks in the Boston. Ideally, dog owners should be able to walk their dogs through the proposed Avon-Otakaro network and then from the north-eastern corner of the new city, through the northern frame, before connecting to the Avon River precinct and Hagley Park.

Walking trails should be separated from cycle paths and could intertwine with paths for those with dogs and those without. The separation of cyclists from pedestrians is very important because of the speed at which many cyclists travel. Dogs can become aggressive when frightened and a cyclist rushing towards an animal or rapidly approaching from behind can be stressful. Separation of dogs from cyclists would reduce conflict.

Dedicated walking tracks, with designated dog exercise areas along the way, would be ideal. Dog exercise areas are off-lead parks similar to the dog parks that currently exist in parts of the city. At least one of these parks should be located alongside a children's playground. Dog owners with children would benefit if they could have outings with their children and their dog. 

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Dog-friendly businesses

The central city should be dog-friendly, meaning no bans prohibiting dogs and their owners from enjoying the environment.

I favour an approach that encourages the establishment of dog-friendly businesses. For example, in many cities and towns in Colorado, dogs on leads are welcome in the main centres. Shops can choose whether or not to be dog-friendly by displaying a window sticker, with some offering pet rest stops outside their premises. Outdoor dining areas for patrons accompanied by dogs are supplied by many cafes.

Shops which do not wish to have dogs enter may choose to establish a dog waiting area or 'hitching post' of sorts that is in clear view of their shop windows. This allows dog owners to tether their dog appropriately and keep an eye on them for safety.

Sponsorship of park benches and dog poo bag dispensers could become commonplace, allowing businesses working with dogs to enter into public/private sponsorship arrangements. We need to find ways to make it easy for local businesses to help support the maintenance of the dog-friendly facilities.

The eastern frame

Residents in the eastern frame and other parts of the city will need to walk their dogs. This is where the eastern frame and housing areas need to seamlessly interact with the green space of the new city.  In the winter season in particular, pathways with lighting that are in view of the street will be important for dog owners walking their dogs.

I sent these ideas to the Christchurch Central Development Unit well over a year ago but nothing has eventuated. As time passes, our hopes for a dog and people-friendly city diminish.

Will this be a lost opportunity?

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