I feel especially sad that this has come about when, as a member of the first Waiheke Local Board, I had fought hard with dog advocate Barbara Wilkinson to win the privilege of deciding our own dog by-laws and not have them regionalised. Sadly for all dog owners we did not have time to implement the most dog friendly by-laws in Auckland before this dog unfriendly Local Board took office. The result is what we see happening now as Waiheke becomes one of the most illiberal places in Auckland to own a dog.
Conflicts of Interest abound on the Board over this issue so I wonder if the Board members who have them declared them to the Hearings Panel as they are required to do. For example, did Shirin Brown absent herself from hearing the submissions made by her partner Hugh Ross representing Forest and Bird, or did Paul Walden absent himself from hearing the Forest and Bird submissions when his father is a Trustee of the Forest and Bird Reserve in Onetangi? The Board has given preference to the views of Forest and Bird, that most Green of Green organisations, that has sought to have the maximum restrictions placed on dog exercise areas. It is conflicts of interest like these that go to the heart of common law which states you cannot be both judge and jury in your own case. At the very minimum it leaves open the possibility of a judicial review of the findings of the Panel.
Perversely, the net effect of restricting freedom of movement for dogs is increasing the urbanisation of Waiheke, something this Board is supposedly opposed to. Waiheke, with its wide open spaces and many out of the way beaches, is suddenly to be treated like an inner city suburb, an acknowledgement by this Board of Wexit (Waiheke exit from Auckland) supporters that Waiheke is indeed part of inner city Auckland.
Urbanisation is further emphasised by this Board in its preference for regional signage over our own unique character signage. The first Waiheke Local Board sought to retain our unique place in Auckland by retaining our own character signage (dark green and yellow) but this has been replaced by the hideously inappropriate regional signage that is proliferating on the island, especially in our parks. The regional signage at Whakanewha has already been changed to reflect the new draconian dog by-laws.
The legacy of this Board is to turn Waiheke from one of the most open and friendly places in Auckland to one of the most illiberal. In other words they are ruining our sense of place and uniqueness within greater Auckland. Not a legacy to be proud of.
Links to associated blogs:
Dog owners barking mad
Hypocrite Waiheke Local Board signs away local character