Dig up Royal Park for 1000 extra parking bays, says Melbourne Zoo

The Age: Dig up Royal Park for 1000 extra parking bays, says Melbourne Zoo, August 5, 2014. Clay Lucas, City Editor, The Age

The Melbourne Zoo wants large parts of Royal Park dug up to create 1000 extra parking bays, and indicated it wanted the plan included as part of the East West Link bidding process.

The zoo has also started a long-term study of six species – elephants, giraffes, tigers, mandrills, cassowaries and Pygmy hippopotamuses – to monitor what, if any, effects construction of the road has on them.

The information is contained in a freedom-of-information request released to a campaigner concerned about the impact of the East West Link on the zoo.

The East West Link is a new $14-18 billion freeway planned to link the Eastern Freeway in Clifton Hill to CityLink in Flemington. The road would pass near the zoo.

The documents released as part of the request show Melbourne Zoo in January this year renamed their “Expansion Committee” the “East West Link Project Committee”.

The minutes of this committee note that the zoo had met all potential contractors to build the road, and all had ‘‘been interested in providing a legacy to the zoo’’.

The documents include a briefing provided to potential contractors on the road project, and the Napthine government’s Linking Melbourne Authority on the zoo’s “requirements”.

These included “support for a long-term plan to accommodate increased car parking requirements of our visitors of at least 1000 extra bays”.

Also included was a 2011 plan for the zoo titled Parking Demands, which outlined three options to create 1000 extra car parking spaces for visitors. These were:

An underground car park beneath Brens Oval near the zoo’s front entrance.

A car park beneath Royal Park Golf Course that would ‘‘require the removal of the three existing holes and clubrooms’’ and their relocation across the nearby Upfield rail line.

Construction of a three-level car park on a 12,000 square metre parcel of land behind the State Netball and Hockey Centre.

Zoos Victoria chief executive Jenny Gray said her organisation had been asked to supply the Linking Melbourne Authority with the zoo’s long-term plans, including the car parking plan. “There really is no conspiracy here,” Ms Gray said.

But Julianne Bell, spokeswoman for the Royal Park Protection Group, said the car park plans, which she said had not been seen before, were “an absolute disgrace – talk about empire building”.

The documents also lay out the plan for a monitoring program to assess the impact on animals of noise, vibration and night light before and during construction of the freeway.

The zoo has train and tram lines running past it, as well as a nearby road, and the documents note that animals in urban zoos are often exposed to sound pressure levels far above their natural environment.

The study began in June, and will monitor six animal types three weeks before construction on the road commences, and during the building period.

Elephants, tigers, hippos, cassowaries and mandrills will all be monitored for aggression levels and their flight response, while giraffes will also be checked for abnormal behaviour as a result of construction activity.

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