Some of regional NSW’s most popular tourist attractions will receive a much-needed funding lifeline, with the Federal Nationals in Government unveiling a support package to help them get through the COVID-19 crisis.

This funding will assist zoos and aquariums like Hunter Valley Zoo with the fixed operational costs associated with the caring of their animals, while also helping to ensure they remain viable and ready to welcome visitors when restrictions are eased.

Federal Nationals Member for Lyn, Dr David Gillespie said the initiative would provide vital assistance for zoos in his electorate that had been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This will be a lifeline for Hunter Valley Zoo who have had many of their revenue streams dry up during this crisis,” Dr Gillespie said.

“It’s absolutely crucial our iconic zoos, like Hunter Valley can still operate on the other side and play a major role in helping our tourism industry to recover from this.

“Jason Pearson and his team have done a wonderful job over the last decade building and expanding the zoo to showcase a range of wildlife to visitors from across Australia and around the world.”

Hunter Valley Zoo owner Jason Pearson welcomed the funding saying it would help ensure his team could continue to provide quality treatment and care to their animals during this time.

“The closure has put immense pressure on our operating budgets, we have many ongoing costs like veterinary care and significant food costs with some animals requiring highly-specialised and exotic food,” Mr Pearson said.

“A single lion needs about $250 in red meat per week or $13,000 of red meat over an entire year.

“While COVID 19 may be keeping visitors away, zookeepers, and veterinarians continue to play a lead role in wildlife recovery after the bushfires, from treatment and rehabilitation to the development of insurance populations.”

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.

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.