A legal battle between Taronga Zoo and a new zoo planned for an area near Blacktown will centre on whether “western Sydney is part of Sydney”, a court has heard.
Taronga Zoo is trying to stop the company behind the new zoo, pitched as a “safari-like experience” 45 minutes from the CBD, from using the name Sydney Zoo.
It argues that without including a reference to “western Sydney”, the name will mislead its overseas and interstate visitors into thinking it is related to the existing facility in Mosman or that the new zoo is located in central Sydney.
During a brief hearing in the Federal Court on Tuesday, lawyers for Taronga Zoo compared the argument to the difference between the names of local AFL teams the Sydney Swans and the Greater Western Sydney Giants.
“Western Sydney is of course part of Sydney but it’s the western part of Sydney,” Ed Heerey QC told the court.
“Wherever you draw the line of western Sydney, they [the new zoo] are on the other side of it.”
Sydney Zoo’s barrister Richard Cobden SC said the case was “exactly about whether western Sydney is part of Sydney”.
He described it as “a startling proposition” that a location “on the Sydney rail map and on the Sydney area maps and on signs used by Tourism NSW saying ‘you’re now entering Sydney’ is not in Sydney”.
Taronga Zoo previously used analysis of Instagram tags and Google search algorithms to try to challenge Sydney Zoo’s application to trade mark its name, arguing a significant portion of the public think of Taronga when they see the term “Sydney Zoo”.
That challenge was unsuccessful however Taronga Zoo is appealing against that decision too.
New zoo slated to open in 2019
Outside the court, Sydney Zoo’s chief executive officer Jake Burgess said he hoped both cases would be resolved quickly.
“I don’t think this will push back our opening. We’re looking at opening in early 2019,” Mr Burgess said.
“What this does though is it introduces an element of risk as we’re trying to build a business and basically build something for the community. Because if we do have to rebrand obviously that might be a setback for us.”
Sydney Zoo’s website promises “Australia’s most advanced zoo” and Mr Burgess said the local community’s response to the project had been “almost universally very positive”.
The not for profit organisation which runs Taronga Zoo, the Taronga Conservation Society Australia, released a statement standing by its call for the new facility to be named Western Sydney Zoo.
“As the premier Sydney zoo for more than 100 years Taronga Zoo is often thought of and described by visitors as Sydney zoo,” CEO Cameron Kerr said.
“It’s for this reason we believe that another facility calling itself Sydney Zoo within Greater Sydney will create confusion, particularly for overseas visitors and that this could negatively impact the experience of guests at both sites.”
Mr Kerr said Taronga Zoo had hoped to avoid going to court and would enter mediation proceedings with Sydney Zoo.
“We are supportive of a new zoo in western Sydney and we have shared advice and guidance in the development of their facilities and best practice animal care, and we look forward to working together to promote wildlife conservation in the future.”