20 September, 2023
Radical changes to keeping stock, dog local laws
A MAJOR change that will affect people who own animals is being proposed by Tablelands Regional Council which would mean those with more than two dogs must live on a property bigger than 4000 square metres.
The radical changes also mean those with stock, including a horse, would have to apply for a permit from council to keep the animal if they live in an urban area or on a lot less than 20,000 sq metres.
Changing local laws is a complex process which requires the council to put any proposed changes out to the community for comment and councillors are already predicting residents will not be happy.
At a recent meeting, councillors expressed particular concern about the requirement for a 20,000sqm lot to keep stock, while those who already have more than two dogs living on properties less than 4000sqm are also expected to push back on the proposed changes.
Currently, two dogs are allowed on a property of 1000sq m.
Cr Dave Bilney he was “trying to get his head” around the proposed changes which he described as “too severe”.
“I want to get a clear picture of what (the changes) that looks like in reality. So, if you have got less than five acres, to have stock in a rural residential area you need a permit?” he asked.
A council officer explained that change would Increase the minimum lot size to keep stock from 4000sq m to 20,000sq m, with the minimum standards requiring 4000sq m an animal.
“I personally think that this is far too restrictive – you go out those (rural res) areas to keep a couple of animals – it will basically affect everyone that has a rural res property in my opinion,” Cr Bilney said.
“I think it has to be watered down, it’s too severe.”
Deputy Mayor Cr Kevin Cardew said council was acting on legal advice in proposing the changes and while he had concerns about the community’s reaction, he was comforted by the fact they would be subject to public feedback.
“I struggle to make sense of the report, but we have to rely on the correctness of our legal advice. But I do note that it will allow for public consultation – these changes are not set in stone,” he said.
“I can’t say I’m entirely happy with the outcome of this – we have made some significant changes in there to address a lot of the concerns and complaints we have had in recent times.
“We have to be mindful of not making this local law too onerous that it affects the majority of people who may want to keep animals on rural residential or urban properties.
“But we have to try and get it right to make it easier for our officers to be able to control and police.
“It is going to go out for public consultation and we will have an opportunity to review this again at a later date and if the concerns I have are addressed through the public consultation, then those changes may be made by council when it comes back to us.”
The concerns of councillors triggered a discussion as to whether they should change the size of the lot required for stock before going out for consultation, but Mayor Rod Marti cautioned them against trying to “write policy” in a council meeting.
“We’re trying to fix one particular problem and we’re creating a whole range of other problems,” he said.
“We shouldn’t be writing policy in a council meeting - we have got the public consultation to occur, I suspect that if we go with those amendments we did this morning, I suspect there will be quite strong public feedback on some of the matters, then we can come back and deal with those things then.
“We don’t want to author any more work today, not because we can’t make it better, but because this is not the forum to do it in.”
But Cr Dave Bilney pushed for the 20,000sq m lot size to be changed to 10,000sq m before going out to consultation.
“Why would we put that out there and create angst among our community when we can change it now. I suggest we amend it to 10,000sq m and then go out,” he said.
But council did not agree to reduce the size of the minimum lot required for stock.
Cr David Clifton then raised the issue of how council would manage all the permits that would be required to keep stock.
“The more permits we require, the more resources the TRC has to have and we’ll have to assess that when we get the community feedback because there is no point in having an expanded permit system that you can’t afford to support because you haven’t got the staff resources and the budget to do it,” he said.
After the meeting and responding to questions from The Express, a council spokesperson said the proposed changes to the Local Laws were based on the feedback councillors had received.
He said the public consultation period would be from 25 September to 20 October and encouraged locals to make submissions.
“We encourage people to make submissions as part of our public consultation so we can better understand the impact these changes would have on households, and wider community sentiment,” he said.
When asked what would happen if pet owners already had more than the prescribed number of dogs allowed on their urban property under the new rules, he said: “Community feedback will also help inform the transitional arrangements that would need to be put in place for those affected by any adopted amendments.”