Governor Phillip Park Plan Of Management Changes To Facilitate Trial Of Dogs Offleash On North Palm Beach: Have Your Say

Closes: Sunday 2 June 2024
Council states it is currently reviewing and updating the Plan of Management for Governor Phillip Park, Palm Beach and considering the recreational, environmental, social and cultural values and characteristics of the area.

The plan will guide the use and management of the park to meet community needs now and into the future.

Council want to know how you use the park, what you value and any ideas and aspirations you have for this well-loved area.

Why is the Council preparing a new Plan of Management (PoM) for Governor Phillip Park?

Council states a new Governor Phillip Park PoM is required to:
  • incorporate a proposal for an off-leash dog trial
  • meet council's obligations under the Crown Land Management Act 2016
  • determine current and future needs of the community in relation to the use and management of the park to ensure that the site and facilities continues to meet the expectations of users and the community
North Palm Beach was the scene, just a few weeks back, where a local wildlife volunteer was fending offleash dogs away from a distressed rare turtle, and where dogs may be seen offleash on the beach, despite this being a no dogs zone, all day every day, unchallenged.

See Pittwater Online April report: Dog Attacks On Wildlife On North Palm Beach

In response to an earlier 'consultation' residents and families who used the beach objected to the area being turned over to becoming a 'dog beach', pointing out this will be used to access the Barrenjoey headland and dunes areas, where wildlife lives.

Council states it resolved on 22 August 2023 to prepare draft Plans of Management for areas proposed for a potential dog off-leash trial at Governor Phillip Park in Palm Beach and Mona Vale Beach (south). Plans of Management are legally required before Council can make a decision to progress any potential trials.

The scope of the Plan of Management relates to the entire reserve, so they want to hear the community’s views on all use and management of Governor Phillip Park.

Barrenjoey Head is managed by the National Park and Wildlife Service and is part of Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park.

A plan of management was adopted by the new NSW Government on February 21 2024 and can be viewed at Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, Lion Island, Long Island and Spectacle Island nature reserves plan of management | NSW Environment and Heritage 

More information on why those changes occurred can be read about in the Pittwater Online January 2024 report:

Governor Phillip Park is Crown land and owned and managed by the NSW Government.

The Minister responsible for Crown land can appoint Council as the Crown land manager for a Crown land reserve. Council is then responsible for it’s care, control and management. The land must be managed in accordance with the Crown Land Management Act 2016 and the Local Government Act 1993.

Key dates listed for changing the Governor Phillip Plan of Management are:
  • Timeline item 1 - active; Apr - Jun 2024: Idea gathering, Gathering residents ideas and aspirations for this area
  • Timeline item 2 - incomplete; Jun - Jul 2024: Review and report - Review community ideas and report what they heard
  • Timeline item 3 - incomplete; Aug - Oct 2024: Prepare the draft PoM
  • Timeline item 4 - incomplete; Nov 2024: Refer draft PoM to NSW Government
  • Timeline item 5 - incomplete; Feb 2025: Report draft PoM to Council, Requesting public exhibition
  • Timeline item 6 - incomplete; Mar - Apr 2025: Public exhibition, Gathering residents feedback on their draft PoM
  • Timeline item 7 - incomplete; May 2025: Review community feedback, update draft PoM
  • Timeline item 8 - incomplete; Jun 2025: Report updated draft PoM to NSW Government
  • Timeline item 9 - incomplete; Aug 2025: Report updated draft PoM to Council, Requesting adoption

Council resolved at the Council Meeting held on 22 August 2023 to prepare draft Plans of Management for areas proposed for a potential dog off-leash trial at Governor Phillip Park in Palm Beach and Mona Vale Beach (south).

The August 2023 Meeting discussions disclosed ratepayers have already footed the bill for $800,000 on legal costs resulting from the previous trial at Station Beach where had not followed the right process, and were allowing dogs offleash in a critically endangered habitat area. The REF cost for the current 'trials' was $125,000 alone, despite the authors spending just 10 hours at both locations and not sighting any wildlife due to the amount of dogs offleash in those no dogs areas while conducting those wildlife surveys, and Council staff have spent hundreds of hours working on the consultation, which itself cost $96,000.00 - both these last two figures are ex-GST.

The cost of preparing new PoM's was not disclosed.

The consultants found only two or three threatened species present but checking on the government BioNet database, records show sightings of a number of species the REF stated were only moderately likely to occur. These included the Hawksbill Turtle (critically endangered), Little Eagle (vulnerable) and Sooty Oyster Catcher (vulnerable).

In fact, the turtle the wildlife carer was trying to keep dogs away from in Palm Beach dunes was a  Hawksbill. The Hawksbill Sea Turtle has experienced a population decline of almost 80% in the last 120 years and is listed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as Critically Endangered and under the federal Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC) as Vulnerable. The same listing applies in NSW.

The Mona Vale Beach (southern end) Plan of Management is currently being prepared. Public consultation on that project will be undertaken separately to this consultation.

Feedback from government agencies has outlined major legal hurdles to be overcome before the Council can move forward with a trial. First amongst these are preparation of the new POMs, that would need to be approved by council and the relevant minister, for reserves where trials are proposed. 

Other hurdles include: taking over as the Crown Land Manager (or gaining a licence over) relevant Crown Land below the Mean High Water Mark; completion of other required environmental assessments under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act; changes to the Pittwater Dog Control Policy; and orders under the Companion Animals Act declaring the off leash dog areas.

North Palm Beach; dogs are being taken into this area despite clear signage this is a no dogs area

Governor Phillip Park signage - photo taken February 2024.