Funding lifeline for Western Sydney zoos and conservation centres

Friday, 15 May 2020

Three Western Sydney zoos and conservancies will receive a much needed funding lifeline from the Morrison-McCormack Government to help them get through the COVID-19 crisis.

The funding boost will assist Featherdale Wildlife Park in Doonside, Sydney Zoo near Blacktown and the Wild Cat Conservation Centre in the Hawkesbury with the fixed operational costs associated with the caring of their animals, while also helping to ensure they can remain viable and ready to welcome visitors when coronavirus restrictions are eased. 

Liberal Senator for Western Sydney, Senator the Hon Marise Payne, said the initiative would provide vital assistance to the Western Sydney-based facilities that have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“This will be a lifeline for these three centres that have had many of their revenue streams dry up during this crisis,” Senator Payne said.

“They’re each important parts of their communities and we want to make sure they can continue to be a source of local jobs, a magnet for tourism and a safe haven for animals into the future.”

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.

“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,” Minister McCormack said.

Federal Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham the funding lifeline was part of a $94.6 million support package unveiled by the Morrison-McCormack Government today.

“It’s absolutely crucial that these Western Sydney zoos and conservancies can still operate on the other side and play a major role in helping the local tourism industry to recover from this,” Minister Birmingham said.

“We also shouldn't underestimate the huge positive flow-on effects they provide to the local economy. They bring thousands of visitors into the region 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,” Minister Ley said.

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.

Founder and Director of the Wild Cat Conservation Centre in the Hawkesbury, Ben Britton, welcomed the announcement.

“It has been a tough few months between drought, bush fires, floods and now COVID-19 for our small centre out here at Wilberforce, so we want to thank Western Sydney Senator, Marise Payne, for acknowledging our work,” Mr Britton said.

“As the only conservation organisation of our kind in all of Australia, the funds will allow us to continue our vital work to conserve wild cat populations via our breeding programs, education programs and research activities both here at the centre and on the ground in Botswana.”

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.

This initiative is part of the Government's $1 billion Relief and Recovery Fund to support regions, communities and industry sectors that have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19. For more information please see the Fact Sheet.