Dogs set to have a ball as council considers new off-leash areas

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Brendan Rees

Popular parks in Docklands could receive off-leash dog areas under a plan being considered by the City of Melbourne.

Councillors voted unanimously in favour at their Future Melbourne Committee meeting on June 7 to consider designating eight new off-leash areas for dogs including Point Park and Ron Barassi Senior Park in Docklands.

Under the proposal, Point Park would see dogs run around off-leash between the hours of 6pm and 8am every day – with no fencing.

Ron Barassi Senior Park is planned to have off leash use but only outside of organised sporting activity – with no additional fencing.

The recommendation comes as a review of open spaces in 2019 and two phases of community engagement in 2021 identified gaps in off-leash provisions across the municipality.

Docklands resident and dog owner Ayda Hornak said it made sense to have off-leash areas as the neighbourhood was promoted as a family-friendly area.

“Over COVID we saw a significant increase of dogs in Docklands. It’s become very much part of our community culture,” she said.

“If you head over to Point Park at any given time, you will see that 90 per cent of people using the park have dogs beside them. If we are not catering for the residents and locals that use the parks consistently, then who are we catering for?”  

The council will consider the proposed off-leash dogs parks at the end of June before councillors vote on putting recommendations into action.  

Environment portfolio lead Cr Rohan Leppert said by reviewing a consultant’s report before the end of June, it would ensure “we’ve done our due diligence” and explored the time-access properly before making a decision that the community “is comfortable with”. 

Cr Leppert acknowledged it was a difficult balance between the state government providing spaces for the growing dog population and individual responsibility for those living in the densest suburbs in Australia.

While he believed pets had a “really important community and individual health function”, “I’m not going to magic up $30 million to buy a building and build a dog off-leash park. It’s not as simple as that.”

Cr Davydd Griffiths said dog ownership was “something that we want to encourage in the City of Melbourne” as pets were “fantastic for mental and physical health.”

Other proposed new off-leash areas include off-leash areas include portions of Kingsway and Moray St Reserve in Southbank; Eades Park in West Melbourne; Murchison Square in Carlton; Royal Park (Manningham Reserve) in Parkville; Riverside Park in Kensington; and Wellington Park in East Melbourne.

Councillors were expected to approve the proposal at their June 28 meeting, shortly after Docklands News published its July edition.    •

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