DOGS will be allowed to swim in the Minnamurra River as part of a trial which will kick off in September.
At Tuesday night’s meeting, the majority of councillors voted to allow a six-month trial, beginning in September, whereby dogs can swim on-leash from Trevethan Reserve prior to 9am and after 5pm.
The trial was proposed by Councillor Warren Steel.
The move will go ahead despite being opposed by government agencies and council staff.
A report was submitted to the May meeting to consider issues regarding the establishment of a dog on-leash swimming area based from foreshore reserves along the Minnamurra River.
Council resolved that staff consider possible alternative locations along the river. A report was prepared assessing possible alternative locations suitable for dog on-leash swimming.
It assessed 10 reserve areas.
It concluded that there were no locations that were assessed as suitable for this purpose, and the Companion Animals Management Advisory Committee therefore could not support the establishment of an on-leash swimming area.
According to the council business papers Trevethan Reserve is used frequently by school study groups and sporting clubs for tri-athletic competition.
“This reserve adjoins mangroves and salt marsh that is regarded as an ecological endangered community.
“This area has a high participation usage and does not meet all the essential requirements of the criteria.”
Cr Steel said many residents were unaware that dog owners faced a $300 fine if their dog entered the river.
He said the area he proposed to allow dogs to swim in was only a small section of the river; “about 50 metres long between the two bridges”.
Councillor Dennis Seage said council were talking about domesticated pets, “not wild boars’’.
“Cr Steel has introduced a time limit, so that it doesn’t affect peak hours,” he said.
“I think it’s got a great deal of merit... Come on, this is people’s pets we’re talking about, they’re trying to have a swim in the river, our ratepayers’ pets.”
Councillor Andrew Sloan said this was the third time the matter had been considered by councillors, and if any area of the river was to be used by dogs it should be upstream, away from the popular areas in the river’s lower part.
Councillor Kathy Rice felt it was impractical to have a trial time with a reduced timeframe, because people would likely want to swim with their dogs at a time when they were likely to be swimming themselves.
Cr Steel said the number of people who had contacted him since the meeting regarding the fine had been “incredible”, and was pleasantly surprised the trial would gone ahead.
“The river belongs to everybody… It’s a decision for common sense; the river is there to use,” he said.
Deputy Mayor Neil Reilly said the trial area would be carefully monitored by council rangers.
“I don’t think it’s going to be such a big deal,” he said.
“I think the people who probably took their dog in the river will probably be the same people who take their dog maybe a little further down the river.
“I don’t think that people will be swarming to the area to have their dog swim in the river.
“It’ll be a fairly rare occurrence.”
A report is expected to return to council following the trial’s conclusion.