A POPULAR Eyre Peninsula tourist town is in uproar over a council decision to ban dogs from two seaside boardwalks. Residents in Arno Bay have condemned the "dreadful" edict along the community walkway, located next to an Australian-renowned dog-friendly caravan park.
They say the bylaw was introduced without public consultation and has already hit the struggling local economy, as pet-owning tourists bypass the town.
The ban, introduced by Cleve Council last month, has provoked a bitter backlash. The row has even led to signage warning of the ban and a security camera being stolen from one of the 1.5m-wide walkways. The council has defended its decision, arguing it was "mitigating against any possible future risk of having humans and dogs together in ... a relatively confined space".
The final stage of the $400,000 boardwalk was finished in 2008 by the community volunteers, who live 116km northeast of Port Lincoln, after 9500 hours of work. But councillors ratified changes to its Animal Management Plan in December, which included the proposal that "dogs be prohibited on the Arno Bay Boardwalk". Community concerns prompted a vote to revoke the changes in April but that failed. Under laws, no new vote can occur for 12 months.
The changes came into force last month and officials admitted no fines have been issued. The Arno Bay Progress Association and Estuary Group wants the State Ombudsman to overturn the bylaw and have collected hundreds of signatories from across Australia on a petition.
"There is real anger in the town and all through the district - it is just bloody stupid," said the group's most recent secretary and retired office manager, Lyn Whickstein, 72.
"It has hit tourism and it is having a real impact on the town. People are just going somewhere else. It is a detriment to the whole area."