Ms MOORE (Bligh) [5.30 p.m.]: I feel passionately, as do many of my constituents, about the importance of companion animals in our lives. The Centennial Park and Moore Park Trust recently called for responses to a dog policy review, and there is much community consternation about what has been described as the policy's canine-phobic attitude to dogs and their owners. I refer honourable members to the Australian Companion Animals Council, which, in March 2000, said:
Pets give pleasure and teach responsibility. They love and are loved in return, and their owners are healthier and happier than non-pet owners. If a new drug supplied the same benefits that pets provide, it would be hailed as a medical miracle. Because of the considerable benefits that pet ownership brings to individuals, the community and the economy, serious attention should be given to the issues limiting pet ownership. The needs of pets, pet owners and non-pet owners are all legitimate. These needs must be appreciated and integrated with society and the environment to ensure that people and pets live harmoniously.
Pets are a Normal Part of Most Australians' Lives.
Australia has one of the highest rates of pet ownership in the world … Pets are Good for Your Health.
In developing its dog policy in response to the Companion Animals Act 1998, the trust must acknowledge that its survey found that the greatest concentration and frequency of park usage comes from the residential areas surrounding the park complex. Many of those residents are dog owners. Centennial parklands are working parks in line with the original Macquarie bequest of common lands, and it is disappointing that the trust is inclined to sanitise the land and impose more and more restrictions. It is not supposed to be a showpiece, a monument or a wildlife sanctuary: it is a city park that is used by six million people every year.
A constituent pointed out that the title of the Companion Animals Act includes the very important word "companion". It is not called the "Nuisance Animals Act". The proposed changes to park regulations do not reflect a government policy that is meant to improve the position of dogs as companion animals to humans—an issue of growing importance to older people in the community. All the situations that the trust's proposed regulations are supposed to prevent—such as dog attacks on humans and wildlife, the fouling of public places, noise and general nuisance—are already covered by the Companion Animals Act. These changes are totally superfluous and are a potentially costly additional layer of regulation. The main benefit of the changes is that they will enable the Centennial Park and Moore Park Trust to shirk its legal obligation under the Act to provide waste receptacles.
I am also concerned about the short time available for public consultation on the trust's proposed policy. I recommended that the trust review the Companion Animals Act with reference to the strict rules, enforced by extremely heavy fines, that require owners to control dogs and to pick up and dispose of dog waste. I suggested that the use of Grand Drive as the broad demarcation, which was established in recent years, between leashed and unleashed areas be maintained and reinforced so that dogs under control have a free run around the perimeter of the park. I recommended that large sections of leash-free areas that it is proposed should become prohibited areas when used for sport or sport spectator car parking be changed to "dogs under control" areas as defined in the Act and that dog owners be given equal priority to sport and park access.
I suggested that the large areas of public land adjacent to the growing residential areas of Redfern and Waterloo, such as the Moore Park Golf Course, be available for recreation and dog exercising on a shared basis when golf is not being played. After all, it is public land that is owned by the people. I urged the trust administration to respond more comprehensively to the provision of dog bag dispensers and bins in Moore Park West, Moore Park East and Centennial Park to permit dog owners to respond to the waste disposal provisions of the Act. I also recommended that the trust consultation process be expanded to include letterbox drops and public meetings in adjacent suburbs and surrounding communities whose residents are the predominant users of the park.
The trust has responded to the community outcry by undertaking a 12-month review and consultation process and by establishing a reference group to advise it. I welcome that response and I trust that the policy developed subsequently will respond to the needs of the city community and be in line with the Companion Animals Act, which is very important legislation. As I said at the outset, companion animals are an important part of many people's lives.