Formerly New Zealand's High Commissioner to the Cook Islands and MP for the Northland Electorate of New Zealand.
JOHN CARTER - MAYOR OF THE FAR NORTH DISTRICT OF NEW ZEALAND
Moving forward together
Thursday 1 December 2016
Striking a balance on dogs
What is the population of New Zealand? It is a question most New Zealanders can probably answer with varying degrees of accuracy. But how many Kiwis would have a clue about the country's canine population. You may be surprised to know that there were 552,236 registered dogs in New Zealand in May 2016.
This is slightly less than the combined populations of Wellington and Christchurch and doesn't include unregistered dogs which may number in the six-figure range as well.
These figures shouldn't come as a surprise. Many of us own dogs, or have whanau and friends with dogs. Even if we don't have a dog, we encounter them on the street, in parks and at the beach. Put simply, dogs are everywhere. One of the biggest challenges local authorities face is regulating dogs in a way that takes into account the interests of a wide range of people and animals.
Dog-owners want to be able to exercise their dogs in public, but local authorities also have a duty to ensure that dogs don't threaten or pose a nuisance to people, livestock and wildlife. Getting the balance right isn't easy, but that is what we are seeking to do in a dog control bylaw we are currently seeking public feedback on.
The law requires local authorities to review their dog control bylaws every 10 years. On top of this, the Government has told local authorities they need to do more to reduce dog attacks. The Far North District Council has until June 2017 to adopt a new bylaw, so is asking people to share their views on how, where and when dogs should be controlled, as well as how the Council can encourage responsible dog ownership.
We are keen to ensure the bylaw addresses issues from multiple perspectives, so asked a range of groups, including the SPCA and Department of Conservation, to help us draft our statement of proposal. The proposed bylaw covers many issues, but the most contentious is likely to be where and when people can exercise their dogs in public and which public places dogs should be banned from altogether.
We have a duty to protect people and endangered wildlife at our busy beaches from dogs. However, we are also under pressure to relax restrictions on dogs in areas where they don't pose a threat to people or wildlife. That is why we are proposing to remove restrictions on dogs on beaches in the winter when there are few people around and shore birds aren't nesting.
We are also proposing to introduce a new, cheaper registration category for dog-owners who register, microchip and look after their dogs well.
We are trying to balance the interests of people, dogs and other animals, so it is important we hear the views of as many people as possible. Please take the time to find out what we are proposing and have your say before submissions close on 16 December. Help us to strike the right balance.