Council endorses plan to take netball courts at Heathcote Oval for off-leash dog park - but will consider 'wish list' of measures to lessen impact

The council has endorsed a plan to take four of the six grass netball courts at Heathcote Oval for an off-leash dog park. Picture: Chris Lane
The council has endorsed a plan to take four of the six grass netball courts at Heathcote Oval for an off-leash dog park. Picture: Chris Lane

An appeal by a netball club representative at Monday night's meeting of Sutherland Shire Council failed to stop a decision to take four of the six grass netball courts at Heathcote Oval for an off-leash dog.

However, the council agreed to consider a "wish list" of design features put forward by Heathcote Waratah Netball Club.

The council voted unanimously in favour of the site over two other short-listed locations in Engadine - Karamarra Road Reserve and Naranga Avenue Reserve.

The resolution included the design be prepared in consultation with the netball club, with consideration to be given to:

  • Screening, planting and landscaping between the dog park and netball courts (the remaining two grass courts as well as two hard surface courts).
  • Fencing at a height that prevents balls entering the dog park.
  • Safety measures for netball users and other people in the area.
  • The oval's existing toilets be "maintained to an acceptable standard for all users".
  • Repairing the road between the train station and Heathcote Oval.
The netball club will have two hard courts and two grass courts after four grass courts are taken for the dog park. Picture: Chris Lane

The netball club will have two hard courts and two grass courts after four grass courts are taken for the dog park. Picture: Chris Lane

Karin Packham, who spoke at the meeting on behalf of the netball club, said the council's community consultation had erroneously stated the proposed dog park area at Heathcote Oval would be twice as large as would be the case.

"Even so, Karamarra Road Reserve was the most supported site with 288 votes, compared with 225 for Heathcote Oval," she said.

"Karamarra Road received the lowest not-supported vote, 131, while Heathcote Oval was the highest not-supported, with 147.

"Seventy-one per cent of the respondents supported a dog park, however only 35 per cent said they would use Heathcote Oval while 55 per cent said they would use Karamarra Road.

"Karamarra Road is a 9000 square metre area, three times the size of the Heathcote Oval area, which will be less than 3000 square metres."

Ms Packham said another factor was that Heathcote East had only one access road, and it could take up to 20 minutes to exit the suburb, and this would be compounded by the Heathcote Hall development and dog park.

Parking at Heathcote Oval was "a nightmare," she said.

"Many children and adults are scared of dogs. Having a dog park metres from netball courts will heighten anxiety and make coaching impossible."

Ms Packham said the grass courts were used on a regular basis for family picnics and the area was "the only safe place in Heathcote for kids to learn to ride bikes".

"Netball, a female sport, is the second largest community sport in the shire, but is the only code targeted to lose valuable playing fields without future expansion being considered," she said.

"This proposal goes against current NSW Government policy, Her Sport, Her Way - Shaping the future of women's sport in NSW."

The three councillors for D Ward, which takes in Heathcote and Engadine - Carmelo Pesce, Greg McLean and Diedree Steinwall - supported the choice of Heathcote Oval ,

Cr Pesce, who moved the motion, said "Engadine-Heathcote is crying out for a dog park" and was the only part of the shire without one.

Cr Pesce said community consultation "doesn't determine the final outcome, it just gives councillors and staff some information to look at".

"The other two sites back on to residential properties and don't have public parking," he said.

"To have people parking across their driveways and have dogs barking...People's homes are their castles, people work from home because of COVID.

"If we had picked Karamarra Road, we would have had a lot of residents come up here.

"Heathcote Oval isn't close to a residential area and does have a public car park."

Cr Pesce said Heathcote Oval "is not perfect" and "we can't please everyone" and "I think we can address the netball concerns".

"The final outcome of the design hasn't been finalised and my motion will assist with that," he said.

Cr McLean said it hadn't been easy making the choice and he had received substantial feedback from residents around alternative sites.

With the suggested design features he saw it "as a sensible way forward".

Cr Steinwall said, initially, she wasn't convinced Heathcote Oval was the best site, but with the proposed design measures and in consultation with the netball club "I think we can make it work for the netballers and dog park users".

A report by council staff said Sutherland Shire had one of the highest rates on dog ownership in NSW.

In 2020, there was 56,151 registered dogs in the shire, and this represented a 10 per cent increase since 2017.

At present, there are six dog off-leash facilities in the shire, but none in Engadine-Heathcote.

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