NEW restrictions on walking dogs in Mornington Peninsula National Park are now in force, with pet owners warned they face hefty fines for breaches.
Dogs are prohibited at all times along an additional seven kilometres of coastline between Portsea and Flinders and can only be walked on leashes between sunrise and 9am within a limited number of signposted areas in the national park.
Areas where early morning on-leash walking is permitted include a 14km section of coast between Sorrento and Rye, and signposted areas at Portsea surf beach, St Andrews beach and Flinders ocean beach.
There are a number of alternative dog walking areas at some Port Phillip beaches as well as public reserves managed by Mornington Peninsula Shire.
Rangers have warned the new regulations, introduced in spring, would be strictly enforced and violators would be prosecuted and fined
Parks Victoria head ranger Kris Rowe said the restrictions were designed primarily protect wildlife, such as the endangered hooded plover, which is particularly susceptible to dog attacks, as well as to avoid potential conflict with other visitors.
“The national park’s primary purpose is to conserve native flora and fauna,” he said. “We’re pleased that most people are adhering to the new regulations but this is a timely reminder for people as they head out to enjoy the warmer weather.
“The standard fine for [breaking the rules] is $289, but recent patrols have resulted in two individuals being fined $1000 and $900 respectively plus costs.
“I cannot emphasise enough the importance of reading the signs placed at every formal entry point to the national park. They always provide the correct information to follow.”
One group of dog owners more than happy with the new regulations is the Rye-based 16th Beach Dog Walking Group, which has taken a protective stance toward local hooded plover populations
The group was “delighted” members would be able to continue social walks on the beach within the specified hours without having a negative impact on hooded plovers.
“With the breeding season now in full swing, the group’s members are keen to show that by following beach regulations and having our dogs on their leads and walking at the specified times within the pathway and, once on the beach, walking close to the shoreline, our social activities can progress in harmony along with the native wildlife,” walking group member Brenda Harding said.
“We have fought very hard to keep 16th Beach open to dog walkers between dawn and 9am, and are very thankful to Parks for this.
“We only ask that everyone makes a concerted effort to walk their dogs on their leads within the correct hours on the shoreline, and not walk up in the dunes where you would be disturbing the nesting plovers and native fauna.
“By doing this, we will all be able to co-exist and we will always be able to walk our dogs on our local back beach.”
For detailed information and maps of the areas available for dog walking in Mornington Peninsula National Park, visit www.parks.vic.gov.au or call 13 1963.
For advice on alternative dog walking areas outside the national park, visit the shire’s website at www.morn pen.vic.gov.au or call 1300 850 600.