East-west link: Melbourne Zoo’s fears over animal safety revealed

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Melbourne Times: East-west link: Melbourne Zoo’s fears over animal safety revealed, Sue Hewitt, 16 September 2014

Confidential documents reveal Melbourne Zoo was concerned the east-west link could affect animals from kilometres away and requested advance notice to secure them so they were not startled during roadworks.

The documents released under Freedom of Information also reveal Melbourne Zoo wanted the now-scrapped Elliott Avenue off-ramp for the link named in its honour.

However, in the same email to the state Department of Environment and Primary Industries, the zoo argued that Elliott Avenue “must remain open allowing for access” to the zoo.
“The intersection of Elliott Avenue [and] Macarthur Road is critical for zoo traffic,” it stated.

The zoo email, dated September 5, 2013, revealed the zoo’s concerns about the road project.

A department email to the zoo stated some changes “specifically designed to acknowledge and avoid/minimise impacts on the zoo” would be made to the east-west link plans.

If the Elliott Avenue exit had gone ahead the zoo wanted it named the “Melbourne Zoo off ramp” and to use its walls to promote the zoo’s commitment to “fighting extinction”.

The zoo said it was concerned vibrations, from such work as drilling, could affect elephants, which were sensitive to even low-level vibrations two kilometres away.

It was also concerned sudden noise from blasting within five kilometres of the zoo could affect animals and requested protocols be established to notify staff, who could then secure “skittish” animals, according to the document.

“It is requested that the noise levels during construction do not exceed the ambient noise levels at the zoo, particularly overnight,” the email stated.

Environmental engineer Petra Stock, who lives in Carlton North and is not affected by the tunnel project, said she used Freedom of Information laws to obtain documents from the department, including correspondence between the zoo and the department.

Ms Stock said the zoo’s proposal to use the off ramp to promote the zoo and its threatened species programs, was an “interesting” show of support on the zoo’s part.

A zoo spokeswoman said the decision to scrap the Elliott Avenue off-ramp meant the project was likely to move further away than first anticipated and provided them with “further confidence that there will be no significant impacts on the zoo”.

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