CIRCUSES with exotic animals will still be able to use municipal land in Wodonga after a 4-3 vote by the city’s council on Monday night.
Former mayor John Watson and colleagues Libby Hall, Ron Mildren and Brian Mitchell supported the status quo over mayor Anna Speedie, Danny Lowe and Kat Bennett.
The decision ends a saga that began when Lennon Bros Circus staged a season with performing lions at the council-owned Gateway Island last July.
On Monday night she noted that councils with bans had not been taken to court.
“Every other council in Australia that has this policy, that has not led to any other flow-on effect to petting zoos, to horse racing, to dog shows, because common sense has prevailed and the intent of all those policies was always around exotic animals,” Cr Bennett said.
Cr Speedie said she believed citizens wanted a ban.
“I won’t be supporting the option of the status quo tonight...on the basis that I actually want to be able to reflect the community that I’m also hearing from,” he said.
Cr Lowe said people who spoke to him backed a ban, while Cr Mildren said his contacts objected to council interfering with circuses.
“Let’s take this back to the community and do some sort of formal consultation, really get (an) evaluation about what does our community want and let them speak to us instead of us probably speaking for pocketfuls,” Cr Lowe said.
Cr Hall in November backed a ban, but on Monday night she did a u-turn based on fears the council would be taken to court.
“I’d really dislike to be in a position of using ratepayers’ money to represent council on an issue around this if it was to come to bear,” Cr Hall said.
“This could become very expensive, if we lose the case council would lose their objective and the ratepayers would pick up the cost.”
Cr Hall noted Lennon Bros were phasing out their lions.
“I feel that they know that using exotic animals in their circus is a growing concern in communities and using them for performances is not as acceptable as it once was,” she said.
Cr Mildren and Cr Mitchell both cited the legal advice of Albury firm Kell Moore for keeping the status quo.
Cr Mildren said the 12,000 attendance figure across the Lennon Bros shows “speaks volumes”.
Receive our daily newsletter straight to your inbox each morning from The Border Mail. Sign up here