Rockhampton pound location unleashes local political storm

LIKE the neighbour's dog that won't stop barking, the issue of Rockhampton's pound hasn't gone away.

Although Rockhampton Regional Council yesterday committed to investigating potential locations for a new facility, the issue sparked a dogfight between local politicians and emerged as a surprise election issue.

Council had been under fire from the public and the RSPCA for its lack of in-house adoption processes.

In addition, charity organisation Capricorn Animal Aid, which re-houses unwanted or stray animals on council's behalf, scaled back services for September due to financial struggles.

Organisation president Katina Kilpatrick told The Morning Bulletin earlier this week that she was willing to work with council to implement an in-house adoption program.

But councillor Ellen Smith said the current pound facility was not suitable.

Yesterday, Cr Smith moved a motion that a report into possible sites for a new pound be presented at the next health and compliance committee meeting on October 6.

Michael McMillan. Photo: Chris Ison / The Morning Bulletin
Michael McMillan. Photo: Chris Ison / The Morning Bulletin Chris Ison

Mayoral candidate Michael McMillan also criticised council's handling of the issue in a Letter to the Editor.

Mr McMillan said finding a new pound was only part of the problem, with organisations like Capricorn Animal Aid forced to "take the lead in what primarily should remain council's responsibility".

"A council I lead would establish a Rockhampton Regional Council subcommittee devoted to animal welfare," he said.

"This committee would be chaired by the Mayor or a councillor and work proactively and collaboratively with Capricorn Animal Aid, the RSPCA and other stakeholders to establish 'best practice' preventive animal measures, adoption and education programs.

"Positive and immediate moves would also be made toward replacing the archaic Rocky pound with a state-of-the-art shelter, facilitated via a new joint partnership arrangement between council, the RSPCA, CAA and corporate partners."

Responding to the letter, Rockhampton Regional Mayor Margaret Strelow said $3.5 million had been set aside in council budgets from 2019.

"The challenge, as always, will be to find a suitable site," she told The Morning Bulletin.

"We will progress our review of possible sites to make sure that design work and town planning can progress to allow construction at a new site during the next term."

Cr Strelow said council had identified an area of land in Kawana and set aside funds for a regional pound in 2012.

She said councillor Stephen Schwarten "led a community protest that led to that site being abandoned".

Council minutes from November 13, 2012, show council resolved to stop all works planned for the Kawana lot and provide a report on possible future sites.

Cr Schwarten yesterday stood by his decision to oppose the project, which he said had been proceeding without community consultation.

He said there had been widespread anger among people living and working in the surrounding area over noise disturbance from animals at the facility.

"I sided with the people against the council," he said.

"They (council) were irresponsible in doing what they did.

"Those people were rightly up in arms about it."

Cr Schwarten said he supported an improved pound at a "suitable site"; something he said had not yet been identified.

"It will be a matter for the incoming council to consider," he said. "There's no provision in the current budget for any pound."

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