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Currumbin the early bird for pre-holiday opening as theme parks wait for sign-off

Business

Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary on the Gold Coast will open on Friday, June 26 in time for the school holidays, signalling a return to business for the Gold Coast’s major tourist attractions.

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However, COVIDsafe plans for the Gold Coast’s major theme parks are yet to be signed off by the Queensland Government.

Sea World would be the first of the Village Roadshow parks to re-open, followed by Movie World, then Paradise Country and Wet’n’Wild, with all expected to be open ahead of the September school holidays, Village Roadshow CEO Clark Kirby said.

Dreamworld and WhiteWater World have also submitted COVID-safe plans, with Ardent Leisure working towards a re-opening date.

Visitors returning to Currumbin Sanctuary will need to book to enter the park, with a ban on walk-in visitors one of several changes to park operations under COVID-safe measures.

Sanctuary general manager Michael Kelly said other restrictions would include some paid animal experiences and shows being cancelled while restrictions were in place, but famous attractions including daily lorikeet feeding would continue.

However, the park is spread over 27 hectares of tropical gardens and bushlands, which would help ensure safe social distancing, he said.

“The Sanctuary is going to look a little bit different to what people will remember pre-COVID,” Kelly said.

“It’s been almost three months since the park has been closed, so our animals are crying out for some love and attention from our visitors.”

Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary closed on March 23, operating during the coronavirus shutdown with just a skeleton staff to care for the animals and maintain the park. The Currumbin Wildlife Hospital remained open.

To support the re-opening, the Sanctuary will utilise $1 million of an $11 million State Government boost in support for the ailing Gold Coast tourism icons that was announced on Monday.

The $11 million was part of a $50 million government package for Village Roadshow, Ardent Leisure and Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary to help the parks pay for staff wages, reopening of attractions and other supplier costs.

Kirby said the shut down across the parks had been costing Village Roadshow as much as $15 million a month.

But the cash injection would help support wages and new infrastructure for the parks, he said. Sea World’s reopening is expected to feature the New Atlantis attraction, with three new thrill rides to be built including a 52m Trident tower.

“It’s been really tough for our business,” Kirby said.

“The whole idea of hibernating for us, that doesn’t work in practicality. We’re still incurring a lot of costs. It’s good to see a lot of restrictions lifting and getting closer to opening day.”

This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Foundation for journalism and ideas.

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