It looks like you won’t need to dissuade visiting relatives from a horse-drawn tour down Swanston Street anymore.
The City of Melbourne will no longer provide permits for coach operators to park on the street’s southern end due to safety concerns for the animals, cyclists and traffic. Construction of the Melbourne Metro Tunnel and its CBD South station has also contributed to the decision.
“About a third of people like them, a third of people don’t and a third of people couldn’t care less,“ Lord Mayor Robert Doyle told media this morning.
"It's no longer appropriate for the horse-drawn vehicles to operate in their current location on Swanston Street. This civic spine should be primarily used for cyclists, trams and delivery vehicles. The impact of the Metro Tunnel works makes this change necessary now.
"We need to ensure that Swanston Street is a safe and accessible civic space for all Melburnians and visitors to the city."
PETA spokesperson Laura Weyman-Jones says the group would “obviously like to see a full ban of horse-drawn carriages in Melbourne … It’s a busy city and a flighty animal like a horse has no place on the roads”. But she says the Swanston Street decision is an important first step.
The council’s decision means regulation of the industry is now effectively in the hands of VicRoads.
Without a permit the drivers will no longer be allowed to seek fares from the roadside, but will still be able to accept them online and from within their carriages. The Lord Mayor says there’s already carriage drivers operating without permits.
Alex Macdonald, operator of A Classic Carriage Co., has been in the industry for 30 years and owns five carriages.
In 2015 Macdonald was a Silver recipient of the Lord Mayor’s Commendations for service to Melbourne business. The Mayor said on Thursday that key stakeholders had been involved in the negotiations about the changes. Macdonald says he had not been consulted and only heard the news via the radio this morning.
Despite the decision, the City of Melbourne is unable to completely stop the carriages travelling through the CBD as a horse and carriage is classed as a vehicle by VicRoads. The carriage operators will still be allowed to take passengers on tours from their existing parking area outside the Arts Centre on St Kilda Road.
“We simply think animals aren’t ours to use in any way,” PETA’s Weyman-Jones says. “These horses still have to live in the city. The industry basically forces horses that live in Melbourne to either spend every moment tied to a carriage or confined to a small yard in the inner city. That denies them of almost every natural behaviour they have.”
“I’ve operated here for 30 years, the animals are extremely well looked after, I’ve got farms and I’m a professional horse person, I know what I’m doing with horses,” Macdonald says, who keeps his horses on a farm in Macedon. “I’d be more concerned about them now, as I don’t have an income to support them.”