Earlier this year, Lane Cove Council decided they would remove the gates at Kingsford Smith Oval and install three open chicanes. This move was Lane Cove Council’s attempt to encourage dog owners to watch their dogs more closely.
This concept was decided without any form of consultation with the Oval’s users.
It was immediately apparent to the many and varied users of the park — exercisers, elderly walkers, locals with disabilities, numerous kids playing and kicking balls and young dog owners looking after their pets in a safely gated environment — that the Council action of opening the gates could lead to an accident. The Oval is situated on three busy roads, and if a dog escapes from the oval and runs on the road, a child running after the dog may not be traffic aware.
After a meeting at Kingsford Smith Oval of nearly 100 park users and dog owners, a committed community group was formed — the Lane Cove Dog Lovers Association — and dialogue was sought with Council.
Paul Mirabelle is one of the founders of the Lane Cove Dog Lovers Association, and he said: “No public consultation process was undertaken by Council before these changes were unilaterally announced. The changes were announced by Council as a fait accompli and without seeking the views of the residents of Lane Cove who would be impacted by these changes.’’
The Lane Cove Dog Association requested an urgent meeting with the Lane Cove Council and asked them to reconsider their plan.
Lane Cove Council Meeting March 2020
At the March 2020 Lane Cove Council meeting it was resolved to put the following trial in place:
“Undertake a trial to manage the Dog Leash Free Use of Kingsford Smith Oval as follows:
- Chicanes be installed with gates;
- On Monday to Friday the gates are to be locked open between 6.30 am and 3.30 pm and be closed the remaining times;
- On Saturday and Sunday the gates be closed;
- Notwithstanding the above, when the Oval is booked for a sporting match, dogs continue to be prohibited on the Oval;
- The Kingsford Dog Owners Association members shall be responsible for opening the chicane gates Monday to Friday, Council staff shall be responsible for closing them; (ITC comment why can’t LCC staff open the gate when they are there at 6.30 am)?
- When the cricket nets are booked (i.e. not the full field), dogs shall be restricted to the northern third of the field. Signs will be prominently placed to create an imaginary line to designate the area which shall be available for leash-free use by dogs. Dogs will not be permitted on the remaining two-thirds of the field when the cricket nets are in use;
- Large signs shall be placed in prominent positions outlining the above rules including fines for dogs chasing and other offences pursuant to the Companion Animals Regulations 2008;
- Should the General Manager determine that in the interest of staff and/or public safety that the current arrangements are not working, then the General Manager prepare a report to Council for further consideration.”
Lane Cove Council approved the trial just before the COVID19 lockdown. The trial trail was “put on ice”.
During the lockdown phase of COVID19, the Oval was used extensively by locals, dog owners and people exercising. It became apparent how precious this green space is to Lane Cove residents.
Lane Cove Council Meeting May 2020
In May 2020 Lane Cove Council officers submitted a report to the Lane Cove Council asking the councillors to basically forget about the trial agreed with the Lane Cove Dog Association and to implement a new plan. The report stated:
“The ultimate aim of the March 2020 resolution was to provide a safe working environment for staff and other users of the Oval. Should gates remain on the Oval, then they need to open at 6:30 am as staff commence work at 6:30 am. The Lane Cove Dog Lovers Association is unable to resource opening the gates at 6:30 am and can only open them at 7:30 am. This arrangement is not feasible long-term for Council on an efficiency basis. Should Council wish to pursue the option of leaving gates on the Oval then, the only way to ensure they are opened on time is to install an automated system which has been priced at $40,580. Alternatively, the option of providing a new dedicated dog park at Shaw Park at the cost of $44,500. If the Council wished to pursue the Shaw Park option further consultation on a design for the park is recommended.”
This recommendation was a surprise to the residents who live around Shaw Playground. They were surprised that Lane Cove Council would discuss a new dedicated dog park located in an area surrounded by homes without first discussing the concept with residents.
Is it acceptable to agree on a course of action with stakeholders and then two months later discuss changing plans without consultation?
After a vigorous debate, the Lane Cove Council resolved to defer a decision on the above recommendation and to refer the matter to a council workshop.
After this council meeting, Shaw Playground neighbours launched a petition asking Lane Cove Council to give a written assurance that Shaw Playground will not be given further consideration as an alternative dog leash-free park in lieu of Kingsford Smith Oval. The petition has been submitted to Lane Cove Council.
In the interim, the Lane Cove Dog Lovers drafted a Code of Conduct for consideration by the Lane Cove Council. Lane Cove Council has not reviewed this Code of Conduct
So where are we now?
Park users and dog lovers are still to be informed if the open-gate chicane trial will proceed but remain hopeful that an acceptable resolution to this issue can be achieved.
Shaw Playground neighbours hope Lane Cove Council will not progress the Shaw Playground/Dog Park proposal.
Lane Cove Council needs to communicate with stakeholders. There are 5837 dogs registered in Lane Cove. Dog Owners want to be consulted on any changes to off-leash dog park areas. Residents want to be consulted about a dog park being constructed in a residential area.
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