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ATAAC | Australian Teens Against Animal Cruelty - NO Theme Park at Werribee

The State Government yesterday rejected the proposed African Safari World theme park at the zoo because the cost to taxpayers, believed to be $100 million, would have been too great.

Groups opposed to the 40ha theme park, which was to include a roller-coaster and water rides, were celebrating, saying it had been a ludicrous idea to mix a theme park with wild animals.

Tourism Minister Tim Holding, who originally backed the zoo plan, left the door open for other offers for a theme park in Victoria, which he said would bring in billions of dollars for the state.

"There is a gap in Victoria's tourism offering," he said.

"We would like to see proposals in the future from reputable private sector companies who have the capacity to deliver projects of this scale."

Mr Holding said Village Roadshow would need too much taxpayer support to build its African Safari World on the grounds of the Werribee zoo.

The 225ha zoo is home to wildlife including lions, giraffes, rhinos, zebras, hippos and antelopes, which all graze on savannah land.

The theme park proposal was presented to the Government in 2007, and Mr Holding earlier

this year threw his support behind the idea.

Village Roadshow Theme Parks chief executive John Harnden said the company, whose theme parks included Sea World, Movie World and Wet 'n' Wild Water World on the Gold Coast, would continue to focus on expanding its portfolio.

"We have been very pleased with the support our proposal received from business leaders, tourism groups and the community of Wyndham itself, as evidenced by the recent resolution of the local council in support of the project," he said.

Zoos Victoria opposed the planned theme park and its chief executive officer, John Wills, yesterday welcomed the Government's decision and said there were plans in place for the future of the state's zoos.

"Zoos Victoria is finalising a 20-year vision and I look forward to working with government on our exciting plans for the future," Mr Wills said.

'We're looking forward to further developing Werribee Open Range Zoo as a true iconic tourist destination for Victoria."

Werribee zoo plans to launch a special wild dogs enclosure in the Pula Reserve near the award-winning Lions of the Edge exhibit later in the year.

Opposition environment spokesman David Davis said the axing of the planned theme park was a major rebuff for the Premier and Mr Holding.

He said he was not opposed to Village Roadshow or the idea of a theme park for the state, but derided the Government for its handling of the issue.

"This process was secretive and exhibited all those things the Premier said he would not do," Mr Davis said.

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