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Timaru Penguins' Peter Bennett

Caroline Bay will remain dog-free over summer after the Timaru District Council voted to maintain the status quo to protect little blue penguins.

Tuesday’s decision came backed by a recommendation from the council’s environmental services committee to retain the current bylaw dates.

Dogs are allowed on the beach area of Caroline Bay between April 1 and September 30.

The proposed bylaw change would have extended that to include beach access from 5am to 9am from October to March.

Those opposing the change to the bylaw included members of the Timaru Penguins group, Forest & Bird South Canterbury representatives and high-profile former fisherman Brian Kenton.

Mr Kenton, a former president of the New Zealand Commercial Fishermen’s Federation executive, told The Courier late last year that the importance of Timaru’s little penguin population could not be understated.

“I think we’re really lucky.”

The Timaru Penguins group organised a protest outside the council offices in December last year and started a petition to keep dogs off the bay in summer, which attracted about 2000 signatures online and hundreds on paper.

Timaru Penguins representative Peter Bennett, speaking to The Courier after Tuesday’s vote, said he was pleased and said it took very little discussion for council members to come to their final decision.

The vote to maintain the status quo had been unanimous, after councillors wanting to allow dogs on the bay during summer had said they had listened and learned from those wanting to protect the penguins, Mr Bennett said.

Mr Bennett was also pleased the council had offered to put signs notifying the public of the penguins’ presence at both ends of the beach.

“It’s a win for us, it’s a win for the penguins .. [and] Timaru’s tourism industry.”