Since this issue surfaced Mary B has been very active in the defence of Mt Rogers as we know it and need it.... as a place where dogs can be themselves and be free to exercise off leash...under their owners' control, of course.
Mary, Bernadette and other stoic Mt Rogers folk went to the nearest consultation for our area from 7am to 9am on Saturday 28th June at John Knight Park, Belconnen.
In response to this and my earlier email Chris, Kevin and Megan, Kevin, Johan and Xtine, Glen, Phil, Elan, Angharad and Pam have sent us copies of their letters to the consultation process. This effort, which will be the first in a avalanche of comments, shows how strongly we value Mt Rogers and the strength of the community you have built up over 20-30 years.
It seems as though this move for control of dogs and their owners is an ACT-wide project. Personally I can see no logic in this proposal for Mt Rogers which will be even more impossible to "police" than the on-leash stipulation which applies in Canberra Nature Park reserves already. People flaunt the regulations there in areas where there are clear and sometimes extensive conservation areas.
I do not know what has caused Mt Rogers to be targeted for change and whether there have been dog problems we have not heard about. There was the problem of people unhappy with un-collected dog-poo on the main walking path.
I would suggest that TAMS create signs for off-leash reserves' entry-points explaining the reserves' status to those who are new to these areas or unsettled bydogs' behaviour.
I'm sorry if what follows is very long. It aims to bring good ideas and refutations together for respondents to use in their submissions. Submissions do not need to be long! Please ask your families and network members to help and don't think "I don't need to write because others will"....
Please would you print out copies and take up to Mt Rogers to hand out to those you know to be supporters of our dogs. I can think of several people who are not on our email list. I will put up notices about the consultation period to inform others who may still be 'in the dark'.
Dear Mt Rogers Carers.
The response to the SERIOUS DOG WALKING SITUATION on Mt Rogers has been magnificent in that many people have discussed the issue whilst “on the hill” and also sent emails or letters to the consultative process. What is below is Mary’s response and her reactions to going to the “nearest” consultation point at John Knight Park, Lake Ginninderra.
Hi Rosemary and others
Several of us went to the public meeting about dogs on Mt Rogers this morning (28.06.14.) which was run by Ross McKay
Ross said that all large green areas in the ACT are being proposed for re-zoning to dogs on lead areas. Ross thought TAMS are doing this on the grounds of nature conservation but he seemed a bit uncertain on this point. Not only Mt Rogers itself, but all the paths leading up to it from Tillyard Drive and from Kingsford Smith Drive are included in the proposed rezoning.
Regarding how we can all have the most influence to prevent the rezoning Ross was clear that it is the NUMBER of people who protest about or support the proposal who will influence the decision. So what we need are a lot of people writing in to say they oppose the rezoning and each person giving as many reasons as possible why they oppose it. If large numbers of people oppose it, and few support it, we will have a good chance of stopping the rezoning. So if there are three people in a household, it will be a far more effective protest if all three send in separate protests than just one person. I think protests from children will be great too!
You can have your say by:
1. Doing the online survey Click here to complete online survey
2. Emailing Shane Rattenbury [RATTENBURY@act.gov.au] and/or Mary Porter [firstname.lastname@example.org]
3. Emailing Ross Mckay [email@example.com] or phoning him on T: 02 61403261 M: 0409469645. Ross’ company, Beaconhill Consulting, is managing the consultation on new dog zones for the ACT Government.
4. Emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
5. Writing to TAMS Community Engagement G.P.O.Box 158 Canberra A.C.T. 2601
Some reasons for opposing the proposal include:
1. No justification for the change. No changes to residential pattern, no cycle tracks or schools nearby. No playgrounds close to the walking tracks.
2. Hundreds of people currently walk their dogs off lead on Mt Rogers. Far fewer people walk their dogs on lead.
3. Health benefits for people walking dogs
a. Mt Rogers is one of the largest areas for off lead walking and people drive from all over Canberra to walk their dogs there. The steep tracks make walking there very healthy
b. Walking dogs on lead can damage people’s spines and can cause and exacerbate injuries to shoulders and elbows and carpel tunnel syndrome.
c. People with arthritis find it very difficult to walk any distance with a dog on a lead as do those with larger dogs which are exited by the walk prospect though otherwise manageable and compliant.
4. Safety/protection benefits for people walking with a dog.
5. Animal welfare benefits for dogs walking off lead.
6. Far fewer people will walk their dogs on Mt Rogers if they have to keep them on lead. On frosty mornings, people want to keep their hands in their pockets, not holding a lead!
7. Some dogs are more aggressive when kept on lead
8. People cannot play games with their dogs if they are on a lead.
9. The rezoning will have negative conservation effects
a. Mt Rogers is not part of Canberra Nature Park., where dogs are to be on-leash. Mt Rogers is not gazetted as a nature reserve. Until landcarers and amateur naturalists alerted the authorities to areas of conservation value in the reserve TAMS was not aware of "nature" in the reserve which was managed as a base for essential infrastructure and asset protection. Walking dogs off-lead there is most unlikely to be detrimental to nature conservation.
b. Superb parrots are common on Mt Rogers for part of the year, but they, and other native birds , even when they forage on the ground, are not likely to be harmed by off-lead dogs. Speckled Warblers, Quail have survived for 40 years with dogs accessing the reserve off-leash. Resident breeding foxes and feral and domestic cats do pose a threat to the parrots and other native birds. If dogs are no longer allowed off lead we can expect numbers of foxes and cats to greatly increase and pose a greater threat to native birds and reptiles
c. Reptiles have occasionally been taken by dogs but lizards and skinks are under greater threat from exploitative people and nearby roads
d. Remnant patches of native grassland are also unlikely to be affected by off-lead dogs. There are currently small numbers of eastern grey kangaroos on Mt Rogers in balance with the environment. Kangaroos have co-evolved with pack hunting dingoes, and are unlikely to be be at any significant risk from individual pet dogs. There are also small numbers of rabbits on Mt Rogers. The presence of off-lead dogs running around disturbs rabbits and kangaroos enough to keep them from breeding and therefore keeps their numbers down. If dogs are no longer allowed off lead we can expect numbers of rabbits and roos to build up to artificially high numbers, due to all the artificial available water points in gardens that back onto the Mt Rogers, and all the watered lawns. Unless these roos get culled they would probably get to numbers high enough to pose a risk to people’s safety and to damage remnant native grassland communities on Mt Rogers and also damage people’s gardens. High numbers of rabbits would also damage the native vegetation.
Mary has already written at length to Mary Porter MLA.
In addition to Mary's comments augmented above, other members of our community have contributed the following by sending me what they have written in to the consultation:
Chris....A Fraser dog walker, 7 kms, twice daily, for 28 years has never come across any dog fights. There are the odd instances of kangaroos being chased by dogs.
Bernadette....was among those who went to the information session run by a firm of consultants for the Minister for TAMS/ACT Government. The consultant offered to send her hard copies of the response form for those without email.
Phil....will pass on the information about the situation to others he meets.
Megan and Kevin.... ask "Why is this major change not mentioned in the published list of changes?
Kevin .....asks "What is behind this move?" Do I [RB] know of a dog attacking humans?" Their dog keeps vermin at bay.
Pam ....suggests contacting Alastair Coe MLA and Andrew Leigh MP. Both have shown some interest in Mt Rogers in the past as has Chris Bourke MLA.
Elan....comments as an instructor with the Belconnen Dog Obedience Club aware of responsible dog owners who use the reserve. Responsible dog owners usually put their dogs on leads when in the vicinity of wildlife. Having dogs on leads "won't add to add to your aim of "Health Parks and Healthy People". Many people will probably forgo the daily walk if they have to keep a frustrated dog on the end of the lead".
Johan and Xtine.... were able to quickly resolve a short-term problem with neighbours' dogs and "have no complaints" about the well-managed dogs walking in the reserve.
Caroline and Robert.....echoed others' comments " many in the Fraser/Spence area moved to the area for the dog exercise area on Mt Rogers. Caroline has been walking dogs of Mt Rogers for 22 years "Dog walking regulars know each other well and monitor the activities of 'new' dogs so that any uncontrolled behaviour is nipped in the bud". But in my experience that has only happened once or twice in that time. Dogs require freedom to run and jump and race or they turn neurotic and potentially can then form unacceptable behaviours. Canberra needs to retain convenient off leash areas." "Dogs dissuade foxes, rabbits and cats which is an important part of feral animal control on the Mountain"
Angharad...."[I have] never witnessed a serious incident with an out of control dog and other humans or dogs (or wildlife of any sort ) in the more than 20 years of walking each day on the mountain."
Dog owners recognise newcomers and will control their dogs with a leash, keeping them under control. The cost of driving to an alternative area would be prohibitive in both petrol and emissions.
As a volunteer landcarer and "when walking dogs at all hours and in all weathers I have never seen a ranger observing behaviour of dogs or humans on the mountain..."
Glen..."Can you tell me what the problem you are trying to solve is?" "In 2 1/2 years over 1000 times and 3000 kms I am not aware of any problems caused by dogs off leads." "There are many elderly people with only a dog as companion."
In addition points such as these could be made:
1. Many of the Mt Rogers Landcare Group’s newsletters stress that having dogs under control is safest for their safety from snakes & for wildlife and other people’s sakes.
2. The distance to Fenced Dog exercising places is prohibitive for most people. The ACT Government will need to provide many more of these if off-leash areas like Mt Rogers are not available. Mt Rogers provides an accessible, reserve for 100’s of people and at very low cost to the Government.
3. How is the off-leash area going to be “policed” when TAMS rangers are over-worked already & unable to be “everywhere at once” amongst the ACT’s extensive reserve and urban open space land system?
4. TAMS is unable to help Mt Rogers with rabbit, fox and cat control because it is too close to residences/suburbia.
5. Well-behaved dogs such as those on Mt Rogers draw people together into a vibrant community with common interests. It is counter to “community engagement” to make unnecessary restrictions regarding people’s use of their public land.
6. Signage at the main entry points would inform newcomers & those unused to dogs’ normal behavior that Mt Rogers is an off-leash area.
Rosemary 6258 4724 29.06.14.