No doggy paddle yet

Warren Steel

Warren Steel

A REQUEST to send back a council report which recommends against allowing dogs on leashes to swim in the Minnamurra River has been backed by the majority of Kiama councillors.

The prospect of allowing dogs to swim "on leash" in the river was first raised by Cr Warren Steel in March.

Council staff sought advice from various agencies on the matter.

In a report to last Tuesday night's meeting, staff recommended that the council not proceed with the process to change current restrictions on the entry and swimming of dogs from public reserves adjoining the Minnamurra River.

They also recommended the council consider reviewing signs in riverside reserves to ensure that such signage clearly indicate the restrictions applying to each area.

According to the council's report, the Office of Environment and Heritage's response was that "human disturbance, including disturbance by domestic dogs, is recognised as a key threat for shorebird populations".

"As such any decision to rescind the current order and permit dogs swimming on-leash within the river would increase the likelihood of disturbance to shorebird populations.

"If such a change was to be implemented, OEH suggests council include measures to ensure dog owners are aware of their responsibility to keep their dogs safely away from shorebirds and other wildlife."

The council's report stated that the Companion Animals Management Committee did not support the proposal to rescind the current restrictions.

The Minnamurra Estuary Management Committee was also requested to provide comment.

"Members of the committee were generally opposed to the opening up of Minnamurra River to dog on-leash swimming, although there was one member who indicated that there was probably a compromise able to be found where a designated area away from popular use areas could be allocated," the report said.

"The overall consensus was that this would not be an appropriate activity for a highly popular family and tourist destination, and the overall risks in terms of the pressures already placed on the Minnamurra River environment and responsibility of owners to use the area correctly were too great."

Cr Steel said the report should be sent back for staff to come up with a suitable area alongside the river on Riverside Drive opposite the golf course.

"The Minnamurra River is 15 to 20 kilometres long," Cr Steel said.

"In our municipality there is nowhere north of Kiama that dogs can swim in calm water ... surely we can come up with an alternative for somewhere to swim.

"I'm all for birdlife too but do we have 15 kilometres of birdlife to protect?"

Cr Andrew Sloan opposed Cr Steel's motion, saying many families and children used that area.

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