Formerly New Zealand's High Commissioner to the Cook Islands and MP for the Northland Electorate of New Zealand.


Moving forward together

Thursday 19 April 2018

Working together on dog control

Last week the Society for Local Government Managers singled out the Council's innovative dog microchipping and neutering project for special praise during the Local Government Excellence Awards held in Auckland. Nga Kuri Auau was in line for the Better Policy and Regulation Award, but on the night was narrowly pipped by New Plymouth District Council's Draft Digital District Plan.

While we didn't win, the judges did commend Nga Kuri Auau for being an excellent example of a community-based solution. "The mantra 'caring before compliance' struck a chord with us - modern regulation is about working with people to resolve issues," they said.

Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta was also impressed, saying Nga Kuri Auau was the project that stood out for her. The goal of Nga Kuri Auau was to encourage responsible dog ownership by making it easy for owners to micro-chip and neuter their pets during one-day events held in Kaikohe and Kaitaia.

Last year's 'Chip 'n' Snip' days attracted hundreds of dog owners with their pets and, so far, more than 200 dogs have been neutered. This has already had positive impact. Animal management staff say that following the 'Chip 'n' Snip' days, they are attending fewer callouts for wandering and aggressive dogs, and are also seeing fewer unwanted puppies in the Council's dog pounds.

Most owners are responsible and work hard to keep their pets healthy, happy and under control. We know that dogs that are registered, neutered and cared for are far less likely to become a problem. Sadly, not all owners are responsible.

Each year, the Far North records an unacceptably high number of dog attacks on people and stock, and we also have a very high rate of unregistered dogs. There are no easy solutions to this. Many of the dog owners who attended the Nga Kuri Auau events confirmed that cost is a major barrier for getting their pets neutered or keeping registrations up to date.

With $15,000 in funding from the Department of Internal Affairs, we saw an opportunity to help them become responsible dog owners. The judges called it 'caring before compliance'. You could also call it a carrot and stick approach, because in 2017, we stepped-up prosecutions of owners who flout dog controls.

We recorded numerous court wins that saw irresponsible owners fined, prevented from owning more dogs and ordered the destruction of vicious dogs. Last year, we also began work on our new dog control bylaw. We have learned a lot through this process, including the need to work more closely with responsible dog owners.

Effective dog control in a large district like ours means working hand-in-hand with owners to ensure rules are supported and effective. This community-based approach is one we hope to apply more to dog control and will be part of positive stories we aim to announce in coming weeks and months.



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