Updated: Apr 29, 2020
We are a dog-loving town with ample wide open spaces to romp in and over 900 pooches registered with Central Otago District Council.
Open spaces, wonderful as they are, can however be very challenging off-lead particularly with so many rabbits, lots of dog friends sharing the space, traffic, cyclists and other distractions.
Raewyn Chatfield's vision for a fenced, purpose-built, environmentally-friendly park, she believes, would give dog owners somewhere to let their charges off the lead to safely gallivant, while learning essential social skills.
Dog parks are popular in most cities and big towns around the country and also serve as a relaxed and friendly meeting space where dog owners can chat, swap ideas, host clinics and learn from each other.
Above: Raewyn Chatfield and Grace
When we met Raewyn in mid-2019 she was a little worn down by efforts to get the idea out, gain supporters and figure out where to start. Our then-Community Facilitator George Affleck administered advice, encouragement, direction and even the odd hug and the Cromwell Dog Park Committee was created. The group began research and met with CODC.
People came and went off the committee but a keen core remained steady. They undertook a survey, from a table outside New World Supermarket in October 2019, to see if the wider community supported the idea. Assisted by their fur-babies they gathered over 700 signatures of support and good feedback on possible locations and features of the park.
Bouyed by the support work went on and Lee Webster, CODC Service Manager began the necessary process to see about changing policy and bylaws to allow dog parks to potentially exist in Central Otago. Part of this work involved the council's own survey "Paws for Thought' being circulated throughout the region. This covered all things dog-related such as registration fees and exercise areas too.
The results published in February 2020 showed a resounding 73% in favour of dog parks being permitted in Central.
The journey has a long way to go. Council was scheduled(pre-pandemic) to look at the proposed changes this winter then, if approved, the real work would then start on planning, serious financial investigations and more community consultation.
There have been ups and downs... a committee meeting where only one person turned up, a photo shoot where the dogs were all having a bad fur-day and just wanted to bite each other. But quietly-spoken Raewyn is a determined character and has good support from Chairperson Chris Bardwell, committee menbers Tracey Dowling, Mark Mexted and others.