Barwon Coast bites back about dog access in Ocean Grove

June 4, 2020 BY

Jen Mitchell and dog Winnie are grateful Ocean Grove’s main beach could still be accessible for dog owners, while Barwon Coast feel they’ve been “blindsided”.

BARWON Coast say they were “blindsided” by finding out via livestream of a last-minute City of Greater Geelong council decision to lift a blanket ban on dog access to the Ocean Grove main beach.
Barwon Coast Committee of Management (BCCM) chief executive officer Gary McPike said the decision by the council came without warning or consultation.
“Four out of five people who responded to the survey work we did with COGG during public consultation were dog owners. We were mindful though of the substantial number of people who came to us and said ‘We need a bit of beach we can go to, year-round, and do so safely without worrying about dogs’.
“As a consequence, we thought ceding six per cent of our 15 kilometers of beach – that’s about 950 linear metres of beach – to exclude dogs was not unreasonable.”
BCCM had reviewed the controls put out to public consultation at the end of last year, and made changes they felt reflected the feedback received.
“I’d spoken to all the councillors prior and they were happy to proceed with our recommendations, they’d said it was a ‘good fit’ and we’d ‘covered all the bases’,” Mr McPike said.
BCCM said the only indication they received there was going to be an amendment was at the end of the May 26 meeting when the council referred the recommendations back to them.
The council is seeking final endorsement from BCCM to the following changes to the original proposed dog access rules, with all changes previously discussed except for the main beach:

  • Dog access times in the summer peak zones (16W-21W, 24W-27W and 34W-36W) are extended from 8pm-8am to 7pm-9am, which is consistent with other coastal dog orders adopted by the Great Ocean Road Coast Committee
  • Dogs must be on a leash between Blue Rocks (42W) and 13th Beach (36W) when horses are present and are allowed off lead when horses are not present
  • Dogs need to be on a lead at all times 75 metres either side of the 7W marker in Collendina, instead of the whole area between 7W and 8W, and
  • Dogs allowed on a leash at the Ocean Grove main beach (13W–16W) between May 1-November 30 but are banned between December 1-April 30.

Mr McPike said the most “disappointing part” was the council has made BCMM out to be “the bad guys”.
“We had a good working partnership, and at the last minute without consultation they changed the regulations. They ignored our only non-negotiable, the recommendations of their own officers and the committee of management, appointed by state government.”
Bellarine Ward councillor Trent Sullivan said the council resolved to make some modifications to the proposed dog control orders following extensive consultation with the community.
“We feel the changes to the rules strike the right balance and as a whole, are close to the original proposal put to us by the Barwon Coast Committee of Management.
“The decision to allow dogs on leash at the Ocean Grove main beach during the off-peak season resulted from an amendment I raised. It reflects what council and many in the community feel comfortable with and offers some flexibility.”
But the council’s sudden change of heart fails to consider those within the community who are not dog people, according to Mr McPike.
“There needs to be an understanding; everybody’s got a right to the beach. I’m a dog owner, I love taking my dog to the beach but it shouldn’t be considered an enshrined right that dogs are allowed everywhere.
“I don’t think that’s unreasonable, it’s six per cent of the beach. We’ve gone a long way to improving access so dog owners can easily walk around the exclusion zone, and access the ramps and non-exclusion zones for those with reduced mobility.”
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