HALLS Gap Zoo owner Greg Cullel has appealed to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal after Northern Grampians Shire Council refused his application to introduce four new species.
Mr Cullel lodged the application last week but said he and his wife Yvonne remained hopeful the issue could be dealt with by conciliation.
“We have also applied to council for three of the species to be introduced, because that’s what council asked us to do,” he said.
“We put the VCAT application in just in case, because if council refuses it then we would have to wait another two months.
“Council has assured us that it can be resolved, but we can’t tell what the neighbours are going to do. We’re just trying to shorten the process.”
Council refused to amend the zoo’s permit to include four new species of primate and associated enclosures at its August meeting.
Councillors were divided on the issue, but ultimately refused the permit application on the grounds of noise and impact on amenity.
The application originally included five species – the Siamang ape, white cheeked gibbon, golden lion tamarin, hamadryas baboon and the black and white ruff lemur.
The zoo withdrew the Siamang ape from the application because of noise.
Council gave notice of the application to properties within a 1.6-kilometre radius of the zoo and received nine individual objections, including a multi-signature objection.
At the time, Mr Cullel said he could not believe council was willing to risk the zoo’s investment in the municipality or employment opportunities the zoo could foresee throughout the next three years.
Northern Grampians Mayor Wayne Rice said council received a new planning permit application from the Cullels on Wednesday.
He said council would discuss the issue at a future meeting.
“If we can get it passed as a planning permit then it won’t have to go to VCAT,” he said.
“Greg wants us to look at each of the species individually. He’s reduced the species to three, dropping the white cheeked gibbon.”
Mr Cullel said Halls Gap Zoo was constantly trying to improve its experience for visitors.
He said he was pleased to discover the zoo received a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence for 2013.
“I didn’t even know we were up for this competition until someone asked me if I had seen it,” he said.
Halls Gap Zoo is among the top 10 zoos in Australia according to reviewers on TripAdvisor, the world’s largest travel website.