ZOO PLAN FOR CBD
EXCLUSIVE: Darwin developer unveils $250 million vision for Esplanade
A DARWIN developer wants to transform the Esplanade into a $250 million zoo, the NT News can reveal.
Long-time developer George Milatos has developed concept plans, drawings and a video to show off “Larrakia Zoo and Theme Park.”
He has flagged his “idea” with Lord Mayor Kon Vatskalis and the Department of Business.
The Esplanade belongs to the Darwin Council.
The number of animals would be about 60 and would come from existing operators like Croc Cove, Crocodylus Park and the Territory Wildlife Park.
“We have the most magnificent harbour and city landscape and we have to capitalise on its uniqueness and diversity,” Mr Milatos said.
“This idea has a bold unique wow factor and it ticks a lot of boxes.
“It will grow value and raise the profile of Darwin as a tourist investment destination.
“It will improve local visitor experience. It will showcase cultural diversity. It will encourage retailers, community groups, the arts and cultural sector to enliven Darwin. and it creates more green space and vegetation canopies and water features.”
Mr Milatos said no trees on The Esplanade would be removed and any construction would not exceed tree height.
“There are obvious sensitivities associated with a project like this but I believe we can work through them,” he said.
The zoo will be broken into six sections housing the best Australian native animals; the best Asian animals; the best African animals; a bird aviary; underwater observation tunnel and a tropical rainforest. Old fuel tanks would be turned into 3D theatres, restaurants and cafes.
A monorail connecting the Waterfront and the zoo which
also travels to the Botanic Gardens is part of the plan.
Croc Cove owner and Tourism NT board member Mick Burns said the NT has to continue to develop product to remove the obstacle of seasonality. “Tourism seasonality is the biggest obstacle,’” he said. “We need new product — some man made, some natural, some around access.
“This is a new product and it is innovative but I’m not sure if it is right or if the community will want the government spending money on this type of asset.”
Crocodylus Park owner Grahame Webb said any zoo would have to be subsidised.
“The wildlife park receives around $6 million now and there would be complexities with animal habitats,” he said. “But the biggest issue we have to address is the cost of actually getting to the NT.”
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An artistic impression of The Esplanade under the plan