Changes for Dog Exercise Areas

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The Shire has been conducting an interim review of Dog Exercise Area's, examining pressing issues in Gnarabup, Parkwater and Rapids Landing. Read more in our News Feed below.

For more information on the process undertaken to date please contact the Shire Rangers on (09) 9780 5255.

The Shire has been conducting an interim review of Dog Exercise Area's, examining pressing issues in Gnarabup, Parkwater and Rapids Landing. Read more in our News Feed below.

For more information on the process undertaken to date please contact the Shire Rangers on (09) 9780 5255.

  • Thank you for your survey responses!

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    Community engagement for this interim review was designed in a place-based approach; with targeted engagement and surveys occurring for each of the three places identified. Targeted engagement occurred throughout August 2021, focused on gathering technical advice and feedback from State Government agencies and community groups. These insights were then used to develop solutions and the design of the surveys.

    The surveys were open for submissions over a two-week period from 18 October 2021 to 2 November 2021 accompanied with notices in local newspapers, social media and media releases. The surveys included a series of yes/no style questions, and a free text field at the end for comments.

    Overall, this engagement process has generated 408 submissions from general community and seven agency or group submissions. The largest response has been in relation to the proposed changes for Gnarabup.


    Gnarabup Community Consultation and Your Say survey

    There were five submissions from agencies or groups in relation to Gnarabup. These submissions commonly focus on the environmental considerations of the issue. Whereas the 200 community submissions are wide ranging, with a variety of sentiment expressed. By in large most people are aware of the presence of the Hooded Plover and many submissions hint that dogs are perceived to not be a threat to the Hooded Plover, but rather coastal erosion and humans.

    This survey generated a number of submissions from people living outside of the Gnarabup/Prevelly area (77 of 200), although the results show the overall sentiment is the same for people living inside and outside of the area (refer page 3 of the Engagement Summary – Attachment 1). From all submissions:

    • 75% own a dog;
    • 61% are opposed to prohibiting dogs in the proposed area where there are confirmed nesting locations of Hooded Plovers; and
    • 68% are in favour of implementing a DEA at Reef Drive Beach.

    The additional comments question provides the following key insights:

    • 11% believe if prohibited, there will not be enough beach area for recreational use
    • 9% mention that dogs are not the reason for poor nesting success
    • 11% believe the proposed DEA is too small
    • 6% state humans do as much damage as dogs


    Parkwater Community Consultation

    There were two submissions from agency/community groups for Parkwater. This included the National Trust and Parkwater Community Group who independently requested action for dog management in the estate in 2020. The survey generated 141 submissions from community with 130 submissions from people living within Parkwater and 11 submissions from people living outside. From all submissions:

    • 78% own a dog
    • 75% are in favour of implementing a dog exercise area at Parkwater Oval
    • 86% are in favour of implementing a dog exercise area at Pioneer Drive

    Key insights:

    • 20% of responses request fencing, specifically Pioneer Reserve
    • 9% of responses have concerns about the proximity to the children’s play area
    • 22% requested waste bags and bins throughout Parkwater
    • 12% are opposed to Parkwater Oval being a shared use area


    Rapids Landing and Brookfield Community Consultation

    Zero (0) agency/group submissions were received for this place and 67 submissions from community. All submissions were from people living within that locality. From all submissions:

    • 82% own a dog
    • 89% are in favour of implementing a DEA in this area
    • 25% of participants requested fencing
    • 13% requested waste bags and bins
    • 10% requested a larger DEA than the one proposed


    Councillors will make a decision on this matters on Wednesday 8 December 2021. The full Council Report is available here and is published on the Shire’s website under Council Agendas and Minutes. The report includes more detail including an Engagement Summary.

  • Facts and Q&A's - Changes to Dog Areas in Gnarabup

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    Summary of facts

    New off-lead dog exercise area South of White Elephant Café

    Under the proposal, dogs will be allowed off-lead on a 300m section of beach South of the White Elephant Café. This area is accessed by the steps at Ocean View Road car park and Reef Drive car park. Currently, this section of the beach is signed as an ‘on lead’ dog area.

    Trialing a seasonal Dog Prohibited Area South of Back Beach to North of Boodjidup Beach

    The section of beach (South of Backbeach and North of Boodjidup Beach, including Gas Bay Beach and Grunters) is being proposed to be trialled as a seasonal Dog Prohibited Area to protect Hooded Plovers and other shorebird species during their nesting season. Dogs would not be allowed in this area from 15 December 2021 until 15 March 2022. After the trial period, community members across the Shire will be asked for feedback on the trial Dog Prohibited Area, as part of a major review of all dog areas across the Shire. This is scheduled for July-September 2022 (see more about this below).

    Rural Leashing

    Gnarabup Oval, Rifle Butts Park, and Rifle Butts Beach will remain off lead dog exercise areas. However, all remaining areas in Gnarabup will be zoned ‘Rural leashing’. This zoning update will formalise the existing status quo; that dogs need to be on leads when being walked in residential areas that are open to the public.

    Summary of facts

    To help provide further clarity around this consultation and proposal, here are answers to some frequently asked questions.

    Why is the Shire proposing to change dog areas south of White Elephant Café?

    Currently, the whole strip of beach South of the Gnarabup headland to the start of Boodjidup Beach (National Park) is signed as an on lead dog area. There are sections of this beach strip that are known to be nesting zones for Hooded Plovers.

    There are many factors that can impact the breeding success of these birds. The major factor within the Shire’s control is human and dog impact, which includes introducing measures to restrict dogs during nesting season.

    Academic studies on the effectiveness of dog prohibited areas, in protecting beach-nesting birds, have found that one of the key factors is providing alternative off lead dog exercise areas nearby.

    As a result, the Shire is proposing to create a 300m off lead dog exercise area directly North of the seasonal prohibited dog area, accessed from steps at Ocean View Road car park and Reef Drive car park. The creation of this dog exercise area is based on DBCA advice that no Hooded Plovers have been observed in this section of the beach.

    Evidence supplied by DBCA shows that Gas Bay and Grunters beach areas are identified as Hooded Plover nesting sites, with the advice that prohibiting dogs in these areas would benefit the birds.

    What is the existing situation and what was advertised as proposed changes as part of the survey and community consultation?

    The existing dog areas are outlined in the map below. The area of beach where changes are being proposed is currently signed as an on lead dog area.

    The proposal that went out for public consultation via the survey you commented on (see image below), recommended establishing a new off lead Dog Exercise Area along a 300m section of beach, accessed by the steps at Ocean View Road car park and Reef Drive car park. The rest of the beach up until the start of Boodjidup Beach was proposed as a prohibited dog area all year round.

    What changes have been incorporated following feedback from the survey?

    Following feedback from the survey, Shire officers revised the proposal with the main revision recommending the Dog Prohibited Area (South of Back Beach to the area North of Boodjidup Beach) be trialled as a seasonal Dog Prohibited Area rather than prohibiting dogs all year round.

    Who was consulted as part of the Gnarabup Dog Area survey?

    Community consultation was designed using a place-based approach, with a targeted survey emailed and posted to people living within the local area for feedback. Targeted engagement also occurred throughout August 2021, focused on gathering technical advice and feedback from State Government agencies and community groups. The survey was open for submissions over a two-week period from 18 October 2021 to 2 November 2021 accompanied by notices in local newspapers, social media, and a media release with anyone able to comment.

    The Gnarabup Survey was one of three place-based minor reviews conducted by the Shire. Residents in Parkwater, Rapids Landing/Brookfield also received a survey about dog exercise areas in their respective neighbourhoods.

    The survey generated a number of submissions from people living outside of the Gnarabup/Prevelly area (77 out of 200 submissions), although the results show the overall sentiment is the same for people living inside and outside of the area.

    How often does the Shire review Dog Areas?

    A detailed major review of Dog Exercise Areas for the whole local government area occurs every four years. The next comprehensive review is scheduled for 2022.

    The last major review occurred in 2018-19, which involved extensive community engagement and a series of changes being endorsed by Council on 12 September 2018. This interim (and minor) review arose following a series of place-based issues requiring immediate attention.

    What evidence is there that Hooded Plovers nest in this area?

    Local (Capes Region) Hooded Plover data records provided by the Department of Biodiversity Conservation and Attractions (DBCA) for the 2019/20 season detected 11 hooded plover breeding pair sites from Dunsborough to Augusta, some 140km. Seven of these sites recorded chicks persisting and it is likely that no more than 10 chicks fledged from these efforts. This means that from 22 adults, no more than 10 chicks survived to be able to fly, let alone successfully breed and this includes all the beaches in the National Park. Not all beaches provide suitable habitats for nesting and foraging and many of the most popular beaches in our region are also the most suitable for these birds.

    DBCA has confirmed multiple nesting attempts every year in the last seven years in the Grunters to Gas Bay stretch within the proposed seasonal trial area and only two chicks confirmed to have survived fledging in those seven years. They have advised that the Grunters to Gas Bay stretch is one of the sites most frequently used for nesting attempts in the Capes coast with attempted breeding being more regularly recorded between October and January.

    What evidence is there that dogs negatively affect the ability of Hooded Plovers to successfully breed?

    According to Birdlife Australia, Hooded Plovers, ‘Hoodies’ spend a significant amount of time responding to disturbances, which is any potential threat within 50-100m of their nest or chicks. While a single disturbance may not directly kill a chick or destroy a nest, prolonged and frequent disturbances do. It’s often the overall (cumulative) impact, many small disturbances, that add up to too much time off the eggs or for a chick, too much energy spent running to cover and not feeding. A family of Hoodies can experience hundreds of disturbances in a day. Some of the main threats to breeding success include:

    • People and dogs trampling eggs or chicks.
    • Foxes, dogs, cats, magpies, ravens, raptors or gulls eating eggs and chicks.
    • Chicks starving because they don’t get enough undisturbed time to feed.
    • Eggs overheating or freezing because the parents are too busy responding to disturbance to incubate them.
    • Chicks dying from exposure to harsh temperatures because parents spend too much time responding to disturbances.

    DBCA has advised that there have been reports of dogs disturbing beach-nesting birds in the Gnarabup area.

    What evidence is there to support introducing a prohibited dog area rather than just having dogs on lead in nesting zones?

    When comparing sites under differing prevailing regulations, studies conducted in Australia have shown that compliance with regulations is highest at ‘no dog’ (prohibited dog) sites with 82% compliance on average and lowest compliance occurred at year-round on lead areas with only 21% compliance on average

    (Maguire et al 2018 ‘Only the Strictest Rules Apply: Investigating Regulation Compliance of Beaches to Minimize Invasive Dog Impacts on Threatened Shorebird Populations’):

    “The higher compliance evident in ‘no dog’ areas in comparison to areas maintaining on-leash access (albeit in some areas with seasonal or temporal restrictions), poses an interesting conundrum in terms of required levels of protection for sensitive wildlife areas. Long-term conservation programs for beach-nesting birds, for example, focus on achieving coexistence between recreation and wildlife. In line with this, dog owners are requested to leash their dogs when approaching and passing vulnerable beach nesting zones. The observed low compliance with leashing regulations suggests this is an ineffective approach. However, the alternative, prohibiting dog access from these sensitive beaches, is typically met with conflict and division within the community as dog owners are faced with the risk of losing their access (Johnston et al. 2013). One part of the solution is to ensure adequate provision of alternative off-leash areas to divert users away from environmentally sensitive areas.” (Maguire et al 2018 – emphasis added)

    Elsewhere, there is significant scientific research to demonstrate that domestic dogs do disturb beach-nesting birds which can lead to prolonged absences from the nest or brood. Dogs cause more disturbance to beach nesting birds than humans with peer reviewed scientific studies showing that:

    1. The distance at which dogs off leash disturb birds is more than double than dogs on leash or than humans alone.
    2. The frequency with which birds are disturbed by dogs off leash is more than double the frequency than for dogs on leash or than humans alone.
    3. The time spent away from nests is greater when disturbed by dogs.
    4. Dogs use considerably more space, move more erratically and in the more suitable nesting zone) than humans, causing increased disturbance.

    In Mornington Peninsula National Park, Hooded Plover fledgling production doubled in comparison to the decade prior, and tripled when compared to the three seasons immediately prior to prohibition of dogs in 2016. Furthermore, birds that occupied some of the beaches where numbers of dogs off leash had been highest, produced fledglings where they had had zero success in over a decade.

Page last updated: 13 May 2022, 11:19 AM