The Age: East West Link threatens newly opened guide dog centre. March 21, 2014. Clay Lucas, Workplace Editor for The Age
Melbourne’s new puppy and guide dog training centre, opened on Friday by an Abbott government assistant minister, faces closure because it’s in the path of the proposed East West Link.
Victorian Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews said the possible demolition of the $8 million centre in Kensington showed the “shoddy and haphazard planning” the Napthine government had undertaken for the $6-8 billion road tunnel.
“This multimillion-dollar facility was opened today and we haven’t heard what Denis Napthine is doing to fix this issue,” Mr Andrews said.
Senator Mitch Fifield at the opening of the Seeing Eye Dog centre.
After four years of planning and construction, Seeing Eye Dogs opened its new training centre on Friday morning. The kennels and breeding centre were built entirely with public and corporate donations, including a $1 million donation from eftpos Australia.
The new centre backs onto the Moonee Ponds Creek and is situated partially in the proposed path of the Napthine government’s East West Link.
Seeing Eye Dogs and parent charity Vision Australia have been told by the government that about three-quarters of their site will be needed for construction of the new tollway linking the Eastern Freeway to CityLink.
The charities were seven months into construction when they were first warned, in July last year, that the proposed tollway would affect their new centre.
Possible closure aside, noise from the planned freeway and loss of sunlight from a proposed elevated roadway would make running a training and breeding facility difficult on the current site.
After opening the training centre on Friday, with help from Edie the labrador, Assistant Minister for Social Services Mitch Fifield said Vision Australia was working with the Napthine government to find a solution to the proposed East West Link threat.
“The East West Link is a terrific project and this training and breeding facility is also a great project. I have no doubt that Vision Australia and the authorities will be able to work through to a good solution,” Senator Fifield said.
He acknowledged the East West Link was receiving funding from the Abbott government, but said the new tollway was needed for Melbourne.
“It’s important that we have this facility and it’s also important that we have the East West Link and it’s good that both the authority and Vision Australia are talking the issues through,” he said.
Linking Melbourne Authority spokeswoman Gemma Boucher said there were regular meetings with Vision Australia to “investigate the best ways to reduce or avoid any impact to Vision Australia and its Seeing Eye Dog facility”.
Seeing Eye Dogs will this month present its case to the government’s planning panel assessing the project for Planning Minister Matthew Guy.
Seeing Eye Dogs general manager Leigh Garwood earlier this year warned that the centre would not be able to remain if the freeway was built in its current area, because of noise and overshadowing that would block sunlight to kennels.
The new centre is on land that is close to CityLink’s elevated motorway, but is far enough away that overshadowing is not an issue.
Mr Garwood on Friday said Seeing Eye Dogs was proud of the new facility, which will allow the breeding and training of many more dogs – decreasing the current two-year wait list for clients.
The new kennel and puppy centre has a soundproofed public viewing platform that allows visitors to look down onto the main kennels and watch puppies play.
It is one of only three such centres in the world that provides public access viewing.