Councillors have voted unanimously to forge ahead with a year-long trial of changes to dog exercise areas which have angered many coastal residents. Despite new areas of off-lead beaches added as part of a review, dog owners using beaches south of Gnarabup were incensed on Wednesday night to hear councillors call them up on their bad behaviour. Some dog owners in the Gnarabup area have been a thorn in the side of rangers for years, and councillors — supported by some conservation-minded coastal residents wanting to protect the vulnerable hooded plover — said the trial was needed to gather data on whether more could be done to protect the region’s biodiversity. A nearly 1200-strong petition failed to dent councillors’ resolve as they pushed on with the advertised review. Cr David Binks said he undertook his own research, visiting some of the proposed beaches which were enjoyed as on-lead exercise areas, only to find numerous dog owners flouting the rules. “It really disturbed me that … the acknowledgment of the environment by the dog owners just didn’t seem to be there,” he said. He refuted claims by dog lovers that plovers did not nest at Gas Bay, saying he photographed plover tracks intermingled with dogs clearly off-lead. “There’s not enough control given to dogs to warrant the risk of letting them off (lead).” Speaking last on the item, Cr Ian Earl sarcastically said he was “sure” the 1194 petition signatories always obeyed restrictions and picked up after their dogs. “All of the things that are happening around dogs is because of people who don’t give a damn, they do what they like,” he said. Earlier, retired teacher and petitioner Gary Gibbon hammered the Shire for “push polling” residents during public consultation. “It seemed to be geared towards a predetermined outcome,” he said. All coastal users should have been consulted in the survey, all dog owners contacted, and calling the plover “endangered” was not true, with its official status as “rare but not threatened”. “It was misleading and represented obvious bias in the survey,” Mr Gibbon said. But long-term Margaret River Coastal Residents Association dune rehabilitation worker Janet Dufall was among those who supported the crackdown. “Off-lead dogs running through dunes, causing irreparable erosion … negates the conservation efforts of the volunteers’ hard work and can often never be repaired,” she said. Mrs Dufall also said other like-minded speakers were deterred by “intimidation” from residents wanting Gas Bay and Grunters retained. Cr Earl noted the change to local laws would also give rangers more power to enforce rules for dogs caught off-lead in restricted areas. The new review included areas for Parkwater, Brookfield and Rapids Landing, and retains about 300m of coastal reserves and would be revisited in October next year.