DOG owners who regularly walk their dogs on a 300 metre strip of beach at McCrae are annoyed at restrictions continuing over winter.
They say theirs is the only “leash-free” beach on the Mornington Peninsula to face such restrictions.
Mornington Peninsula Shire last month voted to make the beach leash-free until 10am and after 3pm daily.
In doing so, councillors ignored a recommendation by environment protection manager John Rankine to bring McCrae into line with other beaches which allow dogs to be off-leash at all times outside of the daylight saving period.
Cr Antonella Celi told The News that the new hours gave dog walkers an extra three hours and were “a fair compromise for a family-friendly beach”.
Opening the beach to being leash-free all day would have been “too much of a change for the community to transition to”, Cr Celi said.
Cr Celi said dogs could be taken to the beach on a leash throughout the day.
“It’s a happy compromise for dog owners who want to do the right thing.”
Bill Chalkley, spokesman for the “McCrae Dog Walking Community”, said the new off-leash times at McCrae were “a unique arrangement – we started off with times that were unique and ended up with times that are unique”.
He said Cr Celi’s argument was “based around emotion and getting the right balance, but that doesn’t apply in winter”.
Mr Chalkley cited the predominance of low temperatures and onshore winds as evidence that McCrae was no more “family-friendly” in winter than any other beach.
Cr Celi said dog could be walked off-leash any time at nearby Rosebud or Tassells beach at safety Beach.
She said Mothers Beach, Mornington, had leash-free restrictions because it too was seen as being “family-friendly”.
Cr Celi said she received many complaints about dogs and their owners needed to realise being able to exercise them off-leash was “not a right but a privilege”.
Mr Chalkley councillors may have breached their own code of conduct by maintaining leash-free restrictions at McCrae and ignoring information provided by Mr Rankine.
“There was no evidence provided to support the variation proposed and subsequently adopted by a majority of councillors,” Mr Chalkley said, quoting an extract from the councillors’ code of conduct: “Good decisions are informed by evidence, good advice, contributions from the community, underpinned by integrity and make sense in the long term interests of the community.”
Mr Chalkley said councillors ignored a “costly community consultation process” that included an online survey, which “demonstrated dominant support for removal of the McCrae beach restrictions”.
“Anecdotally, winter beach activity is largely confined to dog walkers [and] all three Seawinds Ward councillors [Antonella Celi, Simon Brooks and Frank Martin] voted in favour of the alternate proposal completely overruling the interests of the Seawinds community despite extensive and compelling evidence to support the original proposal,” he said.
“How then can council demonstrate that the resulting decision is underpinned by integrity, represents good governance and makes sense in the long term interests of the community?”
In a prepared news release, Cr Martin said: “We are glad the community has come together to voice their thoughts on this allowing council to find a solution catering for all.”