Dogs owners across Sunbury may have to tighten their leash at the Emu Bottom Wetlands, with council proposing to reduce the off-leash area to between six and seven hectares in its draft master plan.
Hume council accepted the draft master plan to be approved for exhibition at a meeting on November 13, with the reduction of the dog off-leash from 25 hectares proving to be the most controversial aspect.
The draft plan also proposes to extend the car park, protect sensitive areas, develop a shared trail, and a new shelter with picnic settings, seats and tree planting.
Councillor Jarrod Bell said the intent of the plan is to guide the future development and use of the Emu Bottom Wetlands.
“[It is] a much loved and appreciated community place which has only grown in use… since the restrictions of COVID brought the reserve’s awareness to many people’s attention,” Cr Bell said.
“Council undertook significant community engagement to inform this master plan in April and May of this year.
“The findings… indicate support for the options and the plans, except for a number of dog owners who aren’t particularly supportive of the reduction of the off leash area [to 2.5 hectares].
“The off leash area has [since] been extended to six hectares, which is a significant improvement. This plan is not about restricting use, it’s about putting use in the right context.”
This draft master plan comes amid concern from The Friends of Emu Bottom Wetlands Reserve group about the platypus population with rubbish and reports of dogs being let off leashes.
Speaking about these concerns in August, group president Christina Cheers said she was concerned about the impact dogs swimming in the creek are having on the mammals.
“I don’t think people realise there are platypuses here and just how precious they are,” she said.
“The concern is although there are council regulations, people let their dogs off the leash and let them swim in the creek.”
A council spokesperson confirmed at the time that dogs are prohibited from entering waterways, and signage is in place advising this.
The master plan is proposed to be available to the community in November-December, prior to its adoption by council.