Federal Government Provides Funding Lifeline for Australia Zoo and SEA LIFE

Australia’s zoos and aquariums, including Australia Zoo and SEA LIFE Sunshine Coast Aquarium, will receive a much needed funding lifeline, with the Morrison Government today unveiling a $94.6 million support package to help them get through the COVID-19 crisis. Federal Member for Fisher Andrew Wallace announced the funding for both organisations during a visit to Australia Zoo today.

Mr Wallace said that the final funding amount locally will depend on the total operating costs of the Zoo and SEA LIFE but the Government expects to provide funding of around $1 million each, subject to final assessments.

“Millions of people all over Australia have suffered through no fault of their own during this COVID-19 crisis, and the Federal Government is doing all we can to support them. But this crisis is also having an impact on the native wildlife, other animals and marine creatures in our care at facilities like Australia Zoo and the SEA LIFE Aquarium. Today the Government is stepping up to help ensure that they can all be kept happy and healthy.” Mr Wallace said.

This funding will assist Australia Zoo and SEA LIFE Aquarium with the fixed operational costs associated with the caring of their animals, while also helping to ensure both organisations can remain viable and ready to welcome visitors when restrictions are eased. 

“Both Australia Zoo and SEA LIFE Aquarium are not only terrific conservation facilities, they are also significant employers of Sunshine Coast locals and major draw cards for tourists to our area. As we begin to see restrictions lifted across the country, we need our Zoo and Aquarium to be ready to get back up and running right away, helping to support local residents and our region’s economy as soon as they can. These grants will make sure that Australia Zoo and the SEA LIFE Aquarium can continue to look after their animals while they are closed and when it is safe to do so, their teams can get straight back to doing what they do best, educating and informing visitors about the fantastic wildlife in their care.” he said.

Eligible exhibiting zoos and aquariums funded under this program will have access to a grant that contributes towards up to six months of their 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.

Federal Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham said the initiative would provide vital assistance for Australia’s exhibiting zoos and aquariums that have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“This will be a lifeline for these popular tourism attractions who have had many of their revenue streams dry up during this crisis,” Minister Birmingham said.

“It’s absolutely crucial that our iconic zoos and aquariums can continue to operate on the other side and play a major role in helping our tourism industry to recover from this. 

“We know Queensland’s world-class zoos and aquariums are major tourism drawcards for regions such as the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast and Tropical North Queensland.

“We also shouldn’t underestimate the huge positive flow-on effects our zoos and aquariums provide to the Queensland 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.”

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.