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Dogs may have their day at Ngawi campsite

A popular South Wairarapa coastal campsite could soon allow dogs, even though a council dog control officer says the move has risks, and the council has insufficient resources to properly deal with potential problems.

A South Wairarapa District Council [SWDC] committee is to recommend to the council that campers at the campsite at Ngawi village be allowed to bring their dogs.

Dogs are currently not allowed at South Wairarapa campsites, and the committee was considering whether to change the bylaw to allow dogs at the Ngawi and Tora facilities.

The recommendation from the committee is in line with public submissions on the issue, which were overwhelmingly in favour of the move.

Former SWDC mayor Alex Beijen spoke on behalf of the Cape Palliser Residents and Ratepayers Association in favour of the change.

Beijen said the submission was done in consultation with the approximately 400 members of the association. “What we see is a need for camping somewhere in South Wairarapa that does allow what is mentioned here as ‘members of the family’, the canine family. They should be able to go on holiday [with their owners],” he said.

Beijen said the campground is unusual, and different from others, in that it is overlooked by a number of houses.

This means antisocial behaviour is quickly noticed and can be dealt with if necessary.

Dogs could also be leashed and kept under control, with appropriate signage in place.

A SWDC dog control officer at the meeting opposed the change, saying the council dog control staff are already stretched.

“From an officer’s point of view, the things we would like to highlight is that as it currently stands I have two FTEs [full-time staff] who have 2500 square kilometres of geographical region to cover, and that goes through the Christmas period,” the officer said.

“When we are talking about Ngawi campground, it is probably our most popular, and that’s a lot of campers.

“From our point of view, it is working well as it is now, and we are having a very limited number of attacks or incidents.

“If we open this up, are we going to see an increase in incidents, especially in a campground where we have minors? Are we going to see an increase in incidents with children in the campground?”

The officer said that sometimes dogs have been left all day on a 10-metre lead, and also soiled the area.

“If we open this up, how much extra enforcement are we asking officers to do?”

He cautioned there was a risk to vulnerable groups.

“At the moment the evidence would show to us that we are not having a major issue. If we open this up and there’s a child or an elderly person that is attacked, is that something the ratepayers are going to put their hands up [about]? From an officer’s point of view, we are obligated to ensure we are mitigating those circumstances so they don’t happen. As far as we are concerned, our public safety level is that at the moment we don’t see an issue. We see a potential for that risk to be increased.”

The committee agreed to recommend to SWDC that dogs be allowed at the Ngawi, but not the Tora Campsite, citing overwhelming public opinion.

Changes relating to disallowing dogs at some large events [like the Martinborough fair] and allowing dogs to limited specific events [like the annual swimming pool event in Featherston] will be recommended.

A full meeting of SWDC will consider the recommendations next week. – NZLDR

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

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