Whether it’s tracking down owners of unsupervised dogs or making sure visitors are obeying leash rules, Fletcher Munsterman is spending his summer patrolling Auckland’s popular West Coast beaches.
“For the most part, everyone I interact with is great, but it does have the down side of sometimes. You do step on a few toes.”
After the role was trialled last year, it’s now Munsterman’s full-time gig – working 80 hours a fortnight – funded by Auckland Council and the Waitākere Ranges Local Board.
He makes sure people are following the beach bylaws, which includes monitoring areas that dogs aren’t allowed, and issuing warnings and infringement notices for those who don’t.
Some beaches require more attention than others, according to Aaron Neary from Auckland Council’s Animal Management team.
“Piha is definitely a struggle for us,” he said.
“Because of its popularity, we are more likely to get those rule breakers.”
Despite Munsterman’s patrols, there have still been issues.
“I came back on after a weekend off, because I can’t be here all the time,” he said. “I had a text message: ‘Hey, there’s been a report of an attack on a penguin. We have both the body and we have the dog’.”
It’s not the first time either.
“That’ll be the third time since November.”
The Department of Conservation says it’s a problem nationwide.
“There are a range of ways that different areas approach the issue,” according to DOC marine science advisor Jody Weir.
“People don’t want their dog to hurt wildlife, so initiatives such as this that promote awareness of the risks – as well as what we can do to reduce these risks – is really helpful.”
Neary said anyone interested in having full-time dog patrol at their local beaches can “go and speak to their councillors or local boards”.
Munsterman said most owners want to do the right thing.
“We looked at the rules because we come to Piha regularly,” one dog owner told 1News.
“Because this is the first year we’ve had a puppy, we thought we’d be responsible dog owners.”
Munsterman is on an eight-month contract and will patrol the West Coast beaches until July.