NSW Planning Minister Rob Stokes says he wants to see off-leash dog walking in Rozelle’s Callan Park and doesn’t support fines being issued by the new agency overseeing it until consultations over the area’s use have completed.
Mr Stokes and Inner West Council Labor mayor Darcy Byrne amicably agreed to a ceasefire on radio this week after dog owners raised fears longstanding on-leash rules would be enforced by the new Greater Sydney Parklands authority as the sprawling green space undergoes a facelift.
Their concerns prompted the government to hold an additional public consultation period, centring on the companion animal policy for the historic, 60-hectare park, which is taking place this month.
“I’m certainly not suggesting that people should be going in and targeting dog owners and fining them, that would be ridiculous,” Mr Stokes told ABC radio this week.
“At the moment we’re actually thinking the opposite, which is for people to have their say on this important issue so that we can deal with it once and for all.”
Mr Stokes said that while he couldn’t pre-empt the outcome of the consultation process, the allowance of off-leash dog walking was “certainly the outcome I would like to see”.
“Until we do this process, the reality is that if someone is injured, if someone is bitten, if a dog is hurt, there are liabilities that could ultimately be borne by the taxpayer, and that’s not right. And that’s why we want to manage this area properly,” he said.
The minister also conceded that “no one’s really cared about Callan Park terribly much in the past from the state government perspective”, which was additionally why cementing rules for dog owners was important.
Cr Byrne seized on this, saying the community had been fighting for years to have the park placed under a trust to ensure local input in decision-making.
“And I look forward to seeing the outcomes of the community consultation which, I can tell you with absolute certainty, will be that nobody wants to see a ban on off-leash dog-walking in Callan Park,” he said.
Asked whether he would abide by such a result, Mr Stokes said he and the mayor were in “furious agreement”.
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Angus Thompson is an Urban Affairs reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.