Thank you Chair.
I wish to speak about Item C, the petition about the shelter at the Merri- Merri Dog Off-Leash Park at Chapel Hill.
I’m pleased to report that this is a story with a happy ending. But it could have easily gone the other way.
This is democracy at its best and shows how Council’s petition system is meant to work. It’s been a win for “people power”.
But to get the outcome, it ultimately needed Council to listen and respond and I thank the Schrinner Administration for doing exactly that and acting in the best interests of those we represent.
Let me start by painting a brief picture about this particular Dog Off Leash Park.
Because of its location, Merri-Merri is arguably the most popular Dog Off Leash Park in the Pullenvale Ward. It’s that good that even my son’s very particular French Bulldog, Basil loves it.
It’s one of those wonderful community meeting places where locals congregate in numbers and make it a social occasion while their dogs do what dogs do in an off-leash park.
But not everyone will ever be happy.
Enter a local resident who lives close to the Park, who I’ll call X.
Despite the fact that he purchased his property after the Dog Park was established, it’s fair to assume X doesn’t like dogs, nor does it appear that he likes seeing people enjoying themselves.
So X went out of his way to make life as uncomfortable as he could for the Chapel Hill dog-loving community.
It started with loud heavy metal music but when that didn’t deter them, it was replaced with a different type of metal, that being the sound of a chainsaw being pumped out through an amplifier.
Enter the candidate.
Early into the election campaign, I was invited to attend a meeting of disgruntled dog owners at the Park.
They had been told that X was pressuring Council to have the dog shelter relocated to another part of the park where, when it rained ever so slightly, it became a creek.
As a candidate there was nothing I could do to intervene, but I promised that if elected, we would sort it out.
But we needed to buy time and the only way we could do that was to encourage “people power” and submit a petition to Council.
That the residents did and in numbers, and the rest was history.
Upon being elected as the Pullenvale Ward Councillor, I contacted the chief petitioner, Rob Murdoch and told him that I would deliver on my commitment.
Mr. Chair, I want to acknowledge our Western Suburbs Assets team, and in particular Parks Manager, Shane Klepper, who was fantastic in helping me achieve an outcome that the majority supported.
We looked at the existing decaying shelter and it came down to a choice of upgrading it, building a new one in its place or building a new one in another section of the park.
I consulted the local community but before we made the final decision, I door-knocked X to let him know what we were thinking. While he conceded what we had in mind was better than where the shelter was currently located, his preference was still “out of sight, out of mind”, in the path of the creek.
The happy ending I mentioned earlier is that the dog lovers of Chapel Hill love their new shelter which is further away from X’s residence.
At their invitation, I joined them one Friday afternoon recently to celebrate the end of the journey. What I didn’t expect was the ambush from X, the spotlight in the face and the abusive language.
As local representatives, we’ve all been there, but the reward is achieving the right outcome and one that the community knows was made in their best interests.
Mr Chair, it goes without saying this outcome is “paw-fect” for the dogs and the local residents are no longer “up the creek”.