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Revealed: Premier Mark McGowan’s 1998 call for open-range zoo in Perth’s outskirts

Former Premier Colin Barnett was lampooned for wanting lions and giraffes to roam around Lower Chittering in an open-range zoo, but a new twist to this story has revealed Premier Mark McGowan advocated for exactly the same thing — nearly 20 years earlier.

Mr Barnett raised the open-range zoo concept in 2016, with a State Election looming early the following year, and the former Premier doubled-down on the idea this week, telling The West Live such a project would “build pride and confidence” in WA.

Back in 2016, then-Opposition Leader McGowan called the proposal “a nice idea” but labelled it “desperate politics” in the shadow of an election.

Going back even further, when Mr McGowan was just the Member for Rockingham in Opposition to Richard Court’s Government, the future State Daddy thought building an open-range zoo was much more than a nice idea.

“Since I have lived in Perth, I have thought that the space at the Perth Zoo is very confined,” Mr McGowan told Parliament in 1998.

“It is a beautiful zoo and centrally located, so it attracts a great deal of patronage; however, the Government should come up with a plan to have an open-plains zoo.”

Premier Mark McGowan feeds the giraffes at the Perth Zoo.
Camera IconPremier Mark McGowan feeds the giraffes at the Perth Zoo. Credit: Jackson Flindell/The Sunday Times

However, unlike Mr Barnett, the Member for Rockingham wanted to see it closer to his own electorate.

“I have always thought that it should be located on the outskirts of Perth, whether it be somewhere like Toodyay or, my preference, in close proximity to Baldivis or Karnup,” he suggested.

“It would be an excellent tourist attraction … I make a plea — I am not sure which portfolio this issue comes under — that the Government seriously consider the establishment of this zoo.

“It would be a great asset to Western Australia, would be of educational benefit and would bring in tourists from all over the world.”

Granted, Mr McGowan was only two years into his first term in politics when he made this suggestion, but one wonders what has changed so drastically to make him think an open-range zoo is no longer an “excellent tourist attraction”.

Rather ironically, Premier McGowan announced today a 20-year master plan to ensure Perth Zoo remained innovative and world class.

“Perth Zoo has over 700,000 visitors each year, it is great for tourism, great for local families, for schools and for people from interstate,” he said.

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