The Palaszczuk Government has announced a $3.5 million grant to Cairns Aquarium to help local tourism sustain and recover during the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the funding would be provided from the State Government’s Industry Support Package, established to help support businesses through the coronavirus.
“I was in Cairns last week to meet directly with local businesses about the impact the global corona virus is having,” the Premier said.
“I asked the Treasurer to go to Cairns and other Queensland regions to offer even more support.
“That’s why it’s great news that we will support the Cairns Aquarium with $3.5 million.
“Supporting traditional industries like tourism is part of our plan for Queensland, Unite and Recover for Queensland Jobs.”
Treasurer Cameron Dick said the Industry Support Package focused on ensuring large and regionally significant businesses were able to scale up and get staff working again when economic activity improves.
“This funding is in addition to $50 million announced last month to safeguard tourism jobs across the state, with $25 million of that to support tourism giants like Sea World, Australia Zoo and the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway, who all employ so many Queenslanders,” the Treasurer said.
“With more than 45 employees, it’s important to make sure Cairns Aquarium can bounce back quickly to retain their staff, and this $3.5 million investment will help to do that.
“As travel restrictions ease within Queensland from this week as part of our Unite and Recover roadmap, we are expecting to see increased tourist activity, especially here in the far north.”
“When tourism operators first felt the financial pain of COVID in late January, the Palaszczuk Government acted quickly with an initial $27.25 million including fee relief for tourism operators impacted by decreased patronage.
“That tourism-focused package formed the first part of what is now more than $6 billion worth of COVID-19 support initiatives, including measures for impacted businesses, workers, households, communities and the health sector.
“That includes payroll and land tax relief measures and jobs supporting loans which has already seen more than $38 million in loans approved and payroll tax refunds paid directly to around 600 Cairns region local businesses.”
Minister for State Development, Tourism and Innovation Kate Jones said the $3.5 million grant would primarily be used to cover ‘care and maintenance’ costs for fish and aquatic organisms during the COVID-19 hibernation period.
“The Cairns Aquarium is the only aquarium in the world dedicated exclusively to the habitats and species of tropical north Queensland.
“It is a much-loved, priority tourism business in the region, attracting significant domestic and international visitors and we want to make sure it’s ready to re-open quickly once restrictions ease.
Member for Cairns Michael Healy said the funding was critical for the industry and the region.
“The Cairns Aquarium represents so much about the Far North, and its unique offerings,” he said.
“Ensuring they can rebound quickly will keep more locals in jobs, and more tourism dollars flowing through the region.”
Cairns Aquarium CEO Daniel Leipnik said the funding was essential to ensuring the unique tropical tourism offering could continue.
“Cairns Aquarium is a privately-owned aquarium showcasing aquatic wildlife from Northern Australia, with more than 16,000 fish and aquatic organisms in 71 exhibits, representing 11 different habitats of tropical north Queensland,” he said.
“Since opening in 2017, we have also established a scientific reef research facility, which includes northern Australia fisheries research, a rare reptile breeding facility, a coral propagation centre, laboratories and a research and development centre.
“The support from the Queensland Government will enable the Cairns Aquarium to continue to work with almost 200 local companies who supply goods and services each month which are required to keep the livestock healthy and living systems functioning.
“This support is wholeheartedly welcome at a time when the operational costs of the Aquarium continue without the revenue from tourism activity being available.”