Perth Zoo has received an unexpected Christmas gift, thanks to Western Australia’s booming economy.
Treasurer Eric Ripper today announced that the Gallop Government would write off the zoo’s $17.6million debt as part of the 2005-06 Budget mid-year review.
“Monies that were to be spent on retiring debt and paying interest can now be directed towards day-to-day zoo activities and capital works,” Mr Ripper said.
The zoo has been carrying the debt hangover from the 1980s and 90s, when they had to fund capital works by borrowing.
“WA’s surplus is being used to build 39 schools, 24 police stations and 31 hospitals and clinics,” the Treasurer said.
“The surplus has also given us the capacity to undertake other initiatives such as wiping the slate clean for the zoo.
“This decision means the zoo will have about $1.7million extra a year to spend on activities and projects such as upgrading the Sumatran Orang-utan enclosure.”
Perth Zoo is a world leader in breeding Sumatran Orang-utans and participates in a global breeding program. Since 1970, 25 orang-utans have been born at Perth Zoo.
Perth Zoo chief executive officer Susan Hunt said wiping the debt would make a huge difference.
“The zoo will be using the funds to complete the orang-utan exhibit which has been under construction for the past four years,” Ms Hunt said.
“We will be completing the large climbing frames for all the animals and constructing an elevated walkway for visitors, so that the orang-utans can be seen very clearly.
“We will also be providing upgraded interpretative information to describe orang-utans and their habitat.”
Ms Hunt said the additional funds made available from the waiving of the debt would also enable the zoo to upgrade existing exhibits and provide the capacity to improve visitor amenities.
“Overall, the waiving off this historical zoo debt puts Perth Zoo on a more sustainable business footing for the future,” she said.
“We are already one of the best small zoos in the world and this strengthens us even further.”
Current practice sees State Government appropriations and zoo contributions (public donations and corporate sponsorships) fund the zoo’s capital works, making such debt hangovers a thing of the past.
Treasurer's office: 9222 8788