Reasons given for closing the Dog Exercise Area (DEA) in Cummings Park

NOTE: The “reasons” are as provided by those wanting to close the DEA. The “arguments against the reasons” are as provided by those wanting to retain the DEA. Neither in any way represent the views of the Ngaio Crofton Downs Residents Association which has adopted a neutral position.

Information provided to NCDRA from WCC has been made available to those both wishing to keep or close the Cummings Park DEA to use as they see fit.

Further Note: Closing the DEA does not mean that dogs cannot enter the area, just that they must remain on-leash.


 ReasonArgument against the reason
1The DEA is a very attractive, sheltered space, with potential for enjoyment by a much wider group than presently feel safe and comfortable there. It occupies the largest and flattest part of Cummings Park with both good winter sun and summer shade.The drainage is poor and in winter it can become boggy. It is unrealistic to think it could be transformed into a nice picnic-friendly lawn. Much larger, flat and sunnier areas are available at Ngaio School and Nairnville Park. The school also has good shade. What is the evidence for the “much wider group”?
2There are five DEAs either in or directly adjoining Ngaio: Cummings Park, Chelmsford Reserve, Trelissick Park, Odell Reserve and Silverstream Road. Those wishing to exercise dogs would still have a range of options without Cummings Park. In particular, the Chelmsford Reserve is little used, of similar size to the Cummings Park DEA, and only 5 minutes walk from it.None of the alternatives is as accessible as Cummings Park for older and less mobile dog owners, a number of whom use Cummings Park.
The Odell Reserve is in Khandallah. Silverstream Road is in Crofton Downs.
3None of the main parks in Ngaio can be visited without risking an encounter with unleashed dogs. There are thus no opportunities for families or grandparents with young children to visit a park in Ngaio which is free of off-leash dogs. Except for Trelissick Park dogs must remain on-leash for all local walks, e.g. Bell’s Track, Huntleigh Park, Piwakawaka Track, Khandallah Park.
4Chelmsford Reserve IS a suitable alternative to the DEA in Cummings Park (click here to see why some people think this).Chelmsford Reserve IS NOT a suitable alternative to the DEA in Cummings Park (click here to see why some people think this).
5Ngaio needs a relatively flat and accessible park that is not also a DEA, and Cummings Park, in the heart of Ngaio and directly adjacent to the village, is the best place to provide this.It could be equally argued that Ngaio “needs” an accessible DEA.
Ngaio School and Nairnville Park are better options. The school is directly opposite the Ngaio village, and caters for school-age children outside school hours. The current playground caters for pre-school children.
6The DEA is the most accessible part of the Cummings Park from the Ngaio village for those wishing, for example, to eat their lunch there, but doing so means sharing the area with off-leash dogs which some will not wish to do.There are seats and areas to eat lunch next to the playground which is equally accessible from the village and has good sun and shade. Seats and picnic facilities could be added across the bridge from the DEA.
7While the area occupied by the DEA is in theory multi-purpose, the presence of dogs being exercised greatly detracts from alternative uses. The effects of dog exercise, including dog excrement and very damaged turf, also discourage use by others. Similarly, the activity of children in the playground area discourages others from using that space. The Park as a whole provides for a range of activity areas for people with different interests, dog owners being among them. The presence of dogs enhances rather than detracts from Cummings Park. It generally has very little uncollected dog poo.
8Closure of the DEA would enable the development of a vision for Cummings Park involving, among other possibilities, a larger space for expanded play facilities for a wider range of age groups, better picnic facilities, and greater opportunities for all sectors of the community to sit or walk while enjoying the natural environment including the stream. Closing the DEA would enable redevelopment of Cummings Park to serve the needs of the whole community.A vision for Cummings Park should envisage a development of the whole of the Park that has these facilities and also a DEA. It shouldn’t be ‘either-or’, but ‘both and’.
The other side of the stream could be developed into a lovely picnic area incorporating the playground, while retaining the DEA.
Ngaio school has a better play area and is available for school children out of school hours. The current Cummings Park playground cates for pre-schoolers.
9Before the DEA was established in the mid 1990s children were taken to what is now the DEA for picnics, ball games and birthday parties. They would play in the stream and have ‘boat races’ where they ran along side it. The presence of dogs and dog excrement means these things occur much less.The area was not highly used before it was a DEA, and it has much higher use now because of dog owners. Water quality in the stream may not be sufficient for children to play in it. There is nothing stopping people having children’s parties in the DEA as it is at present. Dog poo is not a significant problem. Children sometimes play there in good weather.
10Ngaio has a relatively high proportion of residents aged 14 or under, making it particularly important that there are safe park environments within walking distance to take children. Cummings Park is a safe environment for children, and the DEA offers a wonderful opportunity for children and dogs to socialise.
11The DEA is an important thoroughfare into Cummings Park. Those wishing to access the rest of Cummings Park from the carpark have to pass through the DEA. Some people, particularly those with young children and/or with some health conditions, are reluctant to, or don’t enter the DEA because of off-leash dogs.There are good options for entering Cummings Park without passing through the DEA. In particular, the broad, paved path from the Library is the obvious entry point for less mobile people and mothers with prams etc.
A fenced path around the DEA could provide dog-free access.
12Under Section 10(4) of the Dog Control Act 1996, when adopting a policy on dogs the Council must consider a number of issues. Three which apply to the DEA in Cummings Park are “the need to minimise danger, distress and nuisance to the community generally”, “the need to avoid the inherent danger of uncontrolled dogs in public places frequented by children”, and “the importance of enabling the public (including families) to use … public amenities without fear of attack or intimidation by dogs”. Having an unfenced DEA close to an unfenced playground as well as being an important access for all park users to the rest of Cummings Park raises the question as to whether the Council has given sufficient regard to S10(4) in retaining the DEA in Cummings Park.This is not an issue if users enter the Park from one of the other three other pedestrian accesses which between them offer equally good access.
If they are entering via the DEA partial fencing and gates could address this.
13The DEA in Cummings Park does not fit well with the criteria used by WCC to determine DEAs. In particular it appears inconsistent with “the area is well bounded from adjacent areas”, and there is “no potential risk to other groups”.A self-closing gate on the bridge would address this.
14The DEA was opened in Cummings Park before development of the carpark when the area was much less accessible than it is now. It is reasonable to think the area as it is now would not be approved as a DEA under current legislation and guidelines if not already approved.Legally, existing use routinely outweighs legislation that is passed later, according to a DEA user.
NCDRA has received the following information from WCC: “The carpark at Cummings Park is privately owned, and Council can’t guarantee future use”.
15Off-leash and sometimes uncontrolled dogs frequently enter the rest of the Park, particularly the grassed bank on the other side of the stream. Sometimes unaccompanied dogs enter the playground from the DEA.Improved signage is required, as some dog owners are not aware one side of the stream is off-limits to unleashed dogs.
A gate at the bridge would greatly help.
16The uneven surface of the DEA resulting from its intensive use by dogs poses a safety risk for less mobile residents and makes it less suitable for children’s play.It can be argued that the DEA surface is bad more because of poor drainage than use by dogs – hence it is currently only suitable as a DEA.
Less mobile residents are not likely to be using a grassed area but would stick to paved paths.
17In spite of the good intentions of most dog owners, dog excrement is not always bagged and removed, particularly from close to the stream. Dog owners often sit on benches where they cannot see their dogs, particularly when the dogs are on the stream bank, and this leads to faeces not always being bagged and removed.Most people are good about cleaning up after their dogs, but this is an ongoing battle no matter where a DEA is sited. It needs to be addressed by more education and signage.
18The DEA is too poorly drained to support its use as a DEA, and what is supposed to be a multi-user area suffers from severe damage to the turf as a result.
NCDRA has received the following information from WCC: “Due to the nature of its use and current state, WCC would only fully renovate the grass at Cummings Park if it was no longer required as a DEA”.
Mesh has helped, but it still gets muddy. Proper drainage and turf management will fix it.
Most Wellington parks suffer in winter from heavy rain. The people most likely to use the area in winter would be dog owners.
19Seating within the DEA gives the best views of the Park’s features, including the stream, trees and bush, and provides the best combination of summer shade and winter sun. There are many places to enjoy views of local streams, bush and trees including Khandallah Park and Otari. We are not short of those things here, we are blessed. Anyway, why should dog owners also not also get to enjoy this aspect of Cummings Park?