By Hayley Gastmeier
The South Wairarapa District Council has ruled out allowing dogs at freedom camping sites in Ngawi.
The council unanimously agreed at a special meeting yesterday not to adopt proposed changes to a bylaw which would permit dogs to accompany campers at both the Ngawi and Ngawi Surf Break reserves.
Two residents gave verbal submissions to councillors, outlining the concerns they had should the bylaw be amended.
Val Rait, of Featherston, said she and her family had been camping at Ngawi since the 1960s.
She noted how they often spent a substantial amount of time picking up rubbish left by other freedom campers.
Allowing dogs on the site would only add to the problem as many dog owners did not pick up their pet’s faeces.
“They poo everywhere, they chase you, they bark . . . they chase stock.”
Mrs Rait said the area was extremely rural and many nearby farm animals would be put at risk.
The change in policy, if adopted, would have come with a raft of conditions.
However, Mrs Rait said making sure people were abiding by the conditions would be hard to police.
Councillor Brian Jepson said during the busy season, rangers visited the Ngawi sites at least once a day, but that would not stop people from hiding their animals at these times.
Aorangi Reserve Trust chairman Clive Paton told the meeting: “We are trying to manage about 40,000 hectares — improving the ecosystems and trying to repair everything.
“One of our jobs along that coast is to encourage the penguins back.”
To do this, the area was equipped with predator traps.
He said allowing dogs to stay on the coastal campsites “would be a step backwards”.
“One dog can do a huge amount of damage . . . I know of an incident of a dog taking out 90 kiwi in one week.”
Mr Paton said the change would encourage more dog-owning tourists to the area, which would put further strain on the environment.
Councillor Pam Colenso said the trust’s eradication programme had been successful in reducing the number of stoats.
“To then add another predator, dogs, on to the coast, would then take their programme backwards.”
SWDC planning and environment group manager Murray Buchanan said the council’s consideration to change the bylaw was prompted by a number of criticisms regarding the dog ban, with Mr Jephson saying Ngawi ratepayers had generally been in favour of allowing dogs at the campsites.