Freedom for Dogs vs Freedom From Dogs
Local dog owners are rallying around a campaign to make Mackenzies Bay an official dog off-leash area following recent crackdowns from Waverley Council. Former Tamarama resident Joshua Faulks is spearheading the campaign, launching a change.org petition in January. The petition had already gained nearly 1,200 signatures at the time of writing, reflecting frustrations at the lack of dog-friendly areas in Waverley.
Waverley Liberal Councillor Tony Kay has lodged a motion to investigate making Mackenzies Bay a dog off-leash area in support of the campaign. The motion requires Council officers to prepare a report for Council to consider public exhibition/community consultation of any proposal.
Although Mackenzies Bay is officially a dog-prohibited area, it has been used by locals as an off-leash spot for many years. While rangers typically rebuke owners who take dogs to other popular spots around the Eastern Suburbs, Mackenzies Bay stands out as a haven where people can take their pets for a swim and some sun.
Mr Faulks described Mackenzies Bay as “a slice of heaven” for dog owners. However, recent ranger activity seeking to clear the beach of dogs has generated discontent in the community.
“I started the petition to measure support, and the support just flew in,” Mr Faulks explained to The Beast. “I think the over-regulation in public spaces is making people in the area feel stifled and Mackenzies used to be a haven from that.”
While 38 per cent of Australian households have dogs, the issue of how to include them in public spaces has become a divisive one. Councillor Kay told The Beast that previous debates surrounding dogs on and off-leash at Bronte Park “created such a robust debate that it polarised the community.”
Greens Councillor George Copeland agreed that while this group of residents is quite vocal about dogs being allowed off-leash, it may not represent the views of the entire community.
“There is a very close call between dog likers and dog dislikers – possibly 50/50 – so it’s a very tricky problem,” he said.
“The issues are that they pee and they poo, and they disrupt people who are trying to enjoy the public spaces.”
Mr Copeland, however, believes that it is less about community sentiment and more about the realities of the Waverley Council local government area.
“It’s impractical in Waverley to have a dog-only beach because there are just too many people,” Mr Copeland told The Beast.
But for those who use Mackenzies Bay regularly, freeing it up as a legalised space for off-leash dog walking is a change that they feel could be a win for the whole community. Bondi resident and dog owner Ella Ballhausen says Mackenzies Bay is part of the social fabric for dog owners.
“I 100 per cent see other dogs down there. It’s local knowledge – everyone around here knows to take their dog there,” she said.
Miss Ballhausen feels that this might be a positive thing for the council.
“If you can isolate specific locations where everyone can take their dogs, rather than having them on every beach, it’s great! You need these spaces to exist and Mackenzies is a good spot for that because it’s out of the road.”
Mr Faulks agreed. “If it’s signposted well [as a dog-friendly area] then all residents know and they can be safer with the proper protocols in place.”
The campaign comes at a time where Mr Faulks perceives a shift in the atmosphere around dogs in public spaces in Australia, as cafes and pubs across Sydney are becoming more welcoming to them.
“There’s momentum behind this change,” he said of increased dog inclusivity, “and Waverley could be at the front of the pack.”