Australia’s zoos and aquariums will receive a much-needed funding lifeline, with the Federal Government today unveiling a $94.6 million support package to help them get through the COVID-19 crisis.
This funding will assist exhibiting zoos and aquariums with the fixed operational costs associated with the caring of their animals, while also helping to ensure Australian zoos and aquariums can remain viable and ready to welcome visitors when restrictions are eased.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack said zoos and aquariums would continue to be crucial to the visitor economies of many regional towns across Australia when their doors open again.
“Whether it be Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo, the Ocean Park Aquarium over in Shark Bay or the Darling Downs Zoo up in Queensland, these attractions are major tourism drawcards for our regional areas,” Mr McCormack said.
“Keeping our regional zoos and aquariums in the best shape possible as we deal with this pandemic will be vital to helping regional communities get back on their feet, sustaining local jobs.”
Federal Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham said the initiative would provide vital assistance for Australia’s exhibiting zoos and aquariums who have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This will be a lifeline for these popular tourism attractions across Australia who have had many of their revenue streams dry up during this crisis,” Minister Birmingham said.
“It’s absolutely crucial our iconic zoos and aquariums can still operate on the other side and play a major role in helping our tourism industry to recover from this.
“We know our world-class zoos and aquariums are major tourism drawcards for many of our major cities and regional centres across Australia, with over 20 million visitors walking through the gates each year.
“We also shouldn’t underestimate the huge positive flow-on effects our zoos and aquariums provide to our economy. They bring thousands of visitors into communities who then spend millions of dollars visiting other attractions, sleeping in our hotels and dining in our restaurants.”
Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley said the funding would help ensure Australia’s zoos and aquariums could continue to provide quality treatment and care to their animals during this time.
“While COVID-19 may be keeping visitors away, zookeepers, aquarium owners and veterinarians continue to play a lead role in wildlife recovery after the bushfires, from treatment and rehabilitation to the development of insurance populations.
“At the same time, they are caring for millions of animals who live permanently within their network and this is critical funding to support the welfare of those animals along with the vital ongoing role zoos play in conserving our environment and protecting native species.”
Eligible exhibiting zoos and aquariums will have access to a grant that contributes towards up to six months of its animal welfare operating costs. This includes animal feed, enclosure, health and other specialised care expenses, and utilities directly related to the housing and caring for animals.
In addition to this support to help with operational costs, zoos and aquariums who meet the criteria will be able to apply for the JobKeeper program to assist with staffing costs.
Austrade will work with the Zoo and Aquarium Association to identify eligible members, as well as state and territory tourism organisations to identify non-members which may be eligible for financial assistance.