Shoalhaven City councillors have rescinded a motion to allow a 24/7 off-leash zone at Cudmirrah Beach, Sussex Inlet.
At the June 26 ordinary meeting, councillors voted to open a section of Cudmirrah Beach to dog owners, allowing a 24-hour off-leash zone. The 1km zone was to be implemented for a 12-month trial period.
However, councillors voted unanimously to rescind the motion at the July 31 meeting.
Instead, a councillor briefing session will be held to look at other potential sites for an off-leash area at Sussex Inlet.
The rescission motion and following notice of motion were put forward by councillors John Levett, Kaye Gartner and Annette Aldrick.
Cr Gartner, who was against the original June 26 motion, brought the rescission motion to council due to the impact off-leash dogs could have on endangered shorebirds.
“Cudmirrah is at the northern end of the hooded plover nesting range,” she said.
“These birds are a significant part of our culture and heritage and as soon as the 24-hour off- leash zone was put in place [last month], the Shorebird Recovery Program, Birldlife Shoalhaven and Birdlife Australia all started to approach myself, and other councillors about how the birds would be impacted.”
Hooded plovers are listed as a “critically endangered” species by the Office of Environment and Heritage and only 65 of the birds remain in the Shoalhaven.
“These birds nest in the sand on the shore and dogs are one of the most significant threats to these birds,” Cr Gartner said.
“We are lucky to still have this bird in our world and we want to keep it that way.”
Cr Gartner said she was pleased councillors recognised the passion of the Shorebird volunteers and the wider community.
“The shorebird groups do not want dogs banned from the beach, they just want them on-leash,” she said.
“There wasn’t proper consultation done in the first place and this now gives us the opportunity to do that.”
Cr Gartner said council received more than 50 “well-written” emails from concerned community members, who worried the plover population would be wiped out if the beach were to be left off-leash.
Local environmentalist Dr Mike Clear said he was pleased the rescission motion was unanimous.
“Threatened species have no hope in the face of unleashed dogs,they are one of the most lethal threats to beach nesting birds,” he said.
“These birds are one of the most endangered in Australia and there is a group of 100 volunteers across the Shoalhaven, who are working very hard to protect them.”
However, Dr Clear said council rangers needed to enforce the on-leash policy.
“The birds nest above the high tide mark, all we are asking is for a small behavioural change to keep dogs on-leash closer to the water,” he said.
“There are a lot of people supporting this campaign and council rangers need to enforce it.”
Dr Clear said Birdlife Shoalhaven received a response from NSW Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton regarding the issue, prior to the meeting, which indicated the Office of Environment and Heritage shared the concerns.
“We are advising council that Cudmirrah Beach is an important beach for the conservation of the hooded plover and that the threat from domestic dogs needs to be managed at this site by having a no dogs policy, or at a minimum, keeping the existing on-leash regulation,” the statement read.
In a follow-up notice of motion, councillors voted to undertake extensive community consultation including National Parks and Wildlife Service, Birdlife Shoalhaven, Shorebird Recovery Program, Office of Environment and Heritage and local dog owners in the Sussex Inlet, Swan Lake and Berrara communities to establish a fenced dog exercise park that allows for dogs to exercise off leash.