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The Clutha District Council is about to consult on a new vehicles-on-beaches bylaw, which could result in a total ban at coastal beauty spots from Taieri Mouth to Tautuku.
One of those beaches — Jacks Bay — could also receive additional protection for wildlife if a proposal made by the Yellow-Eyed Penguin Trust gains public approval.
Trust general manager Sue Murray said the council’s current dog control bylaw did not provide sufficient protection for native animals, including yellow-eyed penguins (hoiho), little blue penguins and sea lions.
At present, the bylaw only states dog owners must place their dogs on a leash when they are within 20m of wildlife.
Ms Murray said that had been shown to be inadequate at Jacks Bay and elsewhere in Otago.
"Jacks Bay is home to several yellow-eyed penguin which breed there and, in November 2010, an off-leash dog killed one of the breeding adults despite the remonstrations of a local person.
"The trust wants to reduce the risk of a similar event occurring, which is why we advocate for dogs on leashes at all times."
Unleashed dogs were one of the biggest issues for coastal wildlife, she said.
"The same applies to any beach in Otago and Southland with high wildlife values. An example is at Aramoana, where dog walkers are continually ignoring the ‘no dog’ access signs.
"There are beaches with low or negligible wildlife values where dogs off leashes may be appropriate. The trust is only asking for dogs to be leashed when sites are known to have wildlife of high value."
Visitors to Jacks Bay yesterday shared Ms Murray’s view.
Upper Hutt resident Tom Clegg, touring the Catlins with family, said many dog owners could not be relied on to control their animals.
"If they’re off the leash, they can be on to wildlife in a flash. So if they’re leashed, at least you know there’s no risk and they’re controlled."
Catlins ward councillor Dane Catherwood said he understood the need for more stringent bylaws to protect vulnerable wildlife.
Submissions on the new bylaws begin on Thursday.