By Hayley Gastmeier
Little blue penguins could be put at risk if dogs are permitted to accompany campers using the Ngawi and Ngawi Surf Break reserves, a concerned South Wairarapa resident says.
Allowing dogs on the beach could also lead to sheep worrying, increased possibility of dog attacks as well as dogs getting into rubbish and making the campsites messy.
The problem of owners not cleaning up their dog’s faeces would also arise.
These issues were to be discussed today at an extraordinary meeting at the South Wairarapa District Council in Martinborough.
The council is considering making changes to a bylaw to allow dogs to be taken by freedom campers to the two coastal free campgrounds.
The council has received a total of four submissions, three of which oppose the proposal.
Clive Paton is heavily-involved in predator control on the South Wairarapa coast, as part of the Aorangi Restoration Trust.
He submitted that the trust was focused on repopulating the Ngawi coast with little blue penguin, or Korora.
“The introduction of more dogs to the coast will certainly be detrimental to the penguin population.
“If dogs could be kept under control on leashes then it is tenable — but policing this situation would be nigh impossible.”
Mr Paton was to voice his concerns to councillors today, along with Featherston resident Val Rait, who visits the Ngawi sites regularly and says they are often “very full” with campers.
“My family and I spend many days picking up rubbish… and in one day alone picked up three large plastic bags full,” she said in her submission.
“We feel if the campers can’t pick up rubbish the [dog] poo will be left for sure also.”
Ratepayers were consulted earlier this year about the possible changes to the bylaw to allow dogs on the reserves, but with a raft of conditions.
The conditions include that dogs are on a leash and accompanied at all times, that they are given sufficient food, water and shelter, that other campers’ space is respected, and dog excrement is cleaned up and disposed of correctly. No aggressive dogs would be allowed at the campsites.
Destination Wairarapa did not oppose a trial for the bylaw, however it asked that offences against the bylaw be recorded, as well as for detailed records to be kept of complaints against dogs being allowed on the beaches.
SWDC planning and environment group manager Murray Buchanan said in a report the concerns raised in the submissions were similar to those raised by council officers when talk of the bylaw revision was first mentioned.
The proposed changes to the bylaw came after a number of people approached the council requesting it to relax its policy preventing dogs from being brought onto free campsites.
Camp dogs ‘a huge issue’
A South Wairarapa campground owner says allowing dogs on Ngawi freedom camping sites is a “ludicrous” idea of the district council.
Mary Tipoki has operated the Lake Ferry Holiday Park for 16 years.
And although dogs are permitted at her campground providing they are on a leash, they are “a huge issue”.
“There are so many fronts we have to contend with.”
She said when campers came to her grounds, the goal was to “make them feel at home”.
“But straight away when they’ve got a dog there’s a barrier to that relationship.
“They think of them as part of their family, so there’s no way you can comfortably be critical of them, you can’t even say ‘they shouldn’t be doing this or that’, it’s like they’re their child.”
Contrary to this, some campers were “utterly petrified” of dogs, too scared to leave their tents or cabins.
Mrs Tipoki said it was unhygienic to have dogs “squirting and pooing” in areas where people were camping, with many campers not cleaning up after their pets.
She said often when she turned her back, owners would take their dogs off leads.
In the past, this had led to dog fights, one attack on a child, and a few cases of dogs being run over.
“Now we have to go around and try to enforce this rule.
“But you try and tell adults what to do – they don’t like it.”
Mrs Tipoki said barking dogs were disruptive to holidaymakers, and freedom camping grounds were not suitable for dogs as the sites were not monitored.