We are only just getting started: doggone protesters fired up
IT WAS with great anticipation that I set out to read the article in the Daily on December 12 relating to the banning of dogs on-leash on all of Mooloolaba Beach.
I was really hoping to read a letter of sympathetic support from Councillor John Connolly but as I realise he needs to be on side with the council decision, that hope was minor.
When I started to read it, what I was surprised with, was his statements made identifying assumptions rather than facts.
Cr Connelly was quoted as saying "only about 18% of people in my division are dog owners and I reckon if I took it to the public the vast majority wouldn't want dogs on the beach”.
This statement concerns me for many reasons.
Most importantly, if the council has recently voted twice on banning the long-held tradition of dogs on-leash being allowed on a portion of Mooloolaba beach, doesn't that mean that they would have taken it to the public?
So why doesn't Cr Connolly know what the public thinks?
The council roles and responsibilities state that they shall have transparent and effective processes and decision-making in the public interest. As well, they should consult the public on most proposed local laws.
I am interested to understand how our councillors determined what was in the public interest and if/how they consulted the public in a real and meaningful way.
Instead, I understand there was a post of the council website and from I could find, a small announcement for people may be interested if they are bee-keepers, horse riders and dog walkers, in the Daily.
All of the dog owners I spoke with after the ban was enacted were completely unaware that the issue was being considered and shocked that it had been passed.
As we saw from the gathering last weekend where well over 100 people gave up their Saturday morning to walk in protest of the ban, there are many people who are passionate about this issue.
Given the weekend walk results, one would have expected a huge response to the proposed change if the council had made a true effort to notify the public that this issue was being discussed.
We can debate if the intent of the announcement was to actually inform the public or if it was simply to have the appearance of consulting the public. I understand there were only four responses on this very contentious issue, which seems to confirm a lack of effort and transparency in the public consultation for this law change.
Of the four responses the council did receive, 75% were in favour of keeping dogs on the beach.
I also understand that the Daily did their own poll, with approximately three-quarters of respondents in favour of dogs on the beach.
So in an admittedly very small sample size, there were approximately 75% in support of dogs on-leash on the beach. So why did the council vote to ban dogs on the beach? Who was so passionate on the council and for what reasoning were they to drive this through anyway?
And on what does Cr Connolly base his statement that the vast majority wouldn't want dogs on the beach?
Now, I just can't let pass Cr Connolly's statement that only 18% of people in his division are dog owners. I don't know where this number came from and I can only speculate that if this was converted to dogs per household it would likely be over 50%, but ownership statistics are not the point, transparency of our elected council is.
Not only are dog owners a numerous and passionate group but I have spoken to many people who don't own dogs, yet love them and believe they should continue to be allowed on the beach.
I have also met tourists who travel here with their dogs to spend a day or a week or more on holiday accompanied by their best friend.
When I walk my dog I often have families come up and tell me their children love dogs. They want to go to a beach where dogs on-leash are splashing in the water or sitting in the shade sharing an awning.
Are there non-dog owners who don't want to share the beach with dogs? Absolutely, and they have every right to that preference.
There always has been and clearly always will be the majority of Mooloolaba Beach where people can feel their toes in the sand without encountering a dog. I truly believe there is enough beach for everyone.
Not to put all the heat on Cr Connelly, as I know he is not the one who has made this happen but he is currently the messenger.
This in mind, I respectfully ask Cr Connolly and all of the Sunshine Coast councillors to review this change to the longstanding tradition with their new law. We welcome transparency and a robust discussion. And we would finally know the answer to what the majority of the public want.
Lastly, I will not make any comment on other issues and comments I received during our event in regards to council methodologies in regards to "making things happen” but I suggest that our councillors may want to take notice of our concerns because as I said on the weekend, we are only getting started and will not simply go away.
Tim Haight is a proud dog owner and one of the organisers of last Saturday's rally at Mooloolaba.