Dog park plan draws criticism

The Howick Local Board plans to create a dog park beside the volleyball sandpit at Lloyd Elsmore Park in Pakuranga. Times photo Wayne Martin

Opponents of a plan to construct a dog park in east Auckland say the site chosen is inappropriate and the process was rushed and not sufficiently transparent.

Late last year the Howick Local Board asked Auckland Council staff to investigate, design and deliver a dog exercise area within Lloyd Elsmore Park in Pakuranga.

A council presentation seeking feedback on the proposal was sent to members of the Lloyd Elsmore Park User Group in early March.

It sought direction on three preferred options, being close to the cricket nets, or in the identified events space or next to the volleyball sandpit in front of Pakuranga Croquet Club.

The presentation says the council’s community facilities team recommends the third option, next to the sandpit.

“The local board direction is to have a fenced-off dog park with double-gated pedestrian access as well as a double access vehicle gate for servicing,” it says.

An email from the dog park’s council project manager to the user group on March 17 said the local board gave direction to seek feedback on the option of placing the dog park next to the volleyball sandpit “as their preferred option”.

The project is now going ahead, but several organisations and clubs that use the park are opposed to the move, including Pakuranga Croquet Club president Neal Henderson and Lloyd Elsmore Park User Group secretary Alison Mudford.

“We don’t think that area is suitable mainly because it is used by the people who play volleyball there,” Henderson says.

“They play quite regularly and are family groups, or it might be a group of a dozen young men or 60 to 100 young people.

“They set up barbecues and gazebos and the kids play touch football [on the adjacent grass area].”

Mudford says she regularly sees large groups of people playing volleyball at the sandpit.

“When the council project manager raised the subject in February she said the council didn’t believe it was being used because no one had booked it officially since 2018 or 2019.

“So that seemed to be behind the thinking of why they thought this would be a good place [for the dog park].”

Henderson says he sent a submission on the proposed site of the dog park to the council but received no reply.

He and Mudford also say parking in the area can be congested and people driving there to use the dog park will make the problem worse.

“This area is completely overrun with cars, often at night and especially on the weekend,” Mudford says.

“One recent Saturday there were vehicles parked on the grass. They were absolutely everywhere.”

She says she asked the dog park’s project manager for time to canvas the park user group’s members for feedback on the proposal and then have a meeting with her to discuss it, but that request was not responded to.

She and Henderson are also disappointed they didn’t have a chance to present to the local board about the issue before it directed council officers to progress with the dog park at the preferred location.

Other sports clubs in Lloyd Elsmore Park feel the same way as she and Henderson in their opposition to the dog park, Mudford says.

“Once it goes in it will be too late” she says.

Council manager area operations, Marcel Morgan, says the council consulted with the park user group about the preferred location of the dog park upon direction from the local board.

Council staff presented on the subject at the group’s meeting in late February before consultation opened.

Morgan says the presentation detailed a number of options and the user group was invited to discuss them and given the chance to give feedback via email. Feedback was open for about a month, he says.

“While a follow-up meeting with the group could not be facilitated, a reminder was sent out to interested parties on March 17 requesting any final feedback for presentation to the local board on March 24.

“Though the majority of feedback received focused around car parking provision, we can confirm there were also observations from the user group about informal activation of the volleyball pit.”

Morgan says the last formal booking to use the volleyball pit was made in 2018.

The board acknowledged feedback received on the location and the “agreed footprint” for the new dog exercise area will allow for the use of the volleyball pit and surrounding area, he says.

“The car parking concerns were also considered by the local board and while it was acknowledged there are certain days and times where the car park can be busy, it was agreed there are also periods when the car park is not fully utilised, which would allow for use by other groups.

“It was also thought it is not uncommon for pet owners to walk their dogs to an off-leash dog exercise area as part of their wider daily exercise routine.”

Board chairperson Adele White says: “The Howick Local Board has received requests for a dog park in our area for some time.

“We look forward to this being constructed and seeing Lloyd Elsmore Park activated by the wider community.”