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Zoo tax: Cash hungry government turns to bunnies to make money

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A year after the Palaszczuk government offered $500,000 to help wildlife attractions through the pandemic, it is set to increase their operating costs.

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The former LNP government, led by Campbell Newman, changed the legislation around exhibited animals and, for various reasons, the incoming Labor administration stopped charging fees under the new regime.

Almost five years later, however, the Palaszczuk government wants to start charging fees again and is consulting the sector on the extent of the cost impost. The state budget is due to be handed down next month.

Since the original fee schedule was drawn up, the broader tourism sector has been hit by a global pandemic. In June, the government announced $500,000 in support for businesses that exhibit animals – just to keep them alive.

Now, cost recovery is back on the agenda, although the fee schedule is different than before. The industry had complained the cost of licence amendments and site visits was excessive.

The proposed schedule is risk-based, and will apply to anyone who exhibits animals, from Australia Zoo and Seaworld to travelling circuses and petting zoos.

A magician, for example, would have to pay $306.50 for a licence to pull a rabbit out of a hat, not including other regulatory costs, which would rise if the government had to monitor the rabbit’s welfare.

“The Queensland Government has a principle that individuals and groups should pay for goods, products or services they directly benefit from,” the government said.

“Since August 2016 exhibited animal authority holders in Queensland have not been required to pay fees. Exhibitors were previously licensed under other legislation and some fees were previously paid under these arrangements.”

It is not clear how much the government expects to raise from more than 130 affected businesses.

When the previous legislation changes were discussed, eight years ago, the overall cost to industry was estimated to be around $183,000 per annum. The government gave media an example its own smaller parks, the David Fleay Wildlife Park, Daisy Hill Koala Centre and Walkabout Creek, which it said would have to pay about $38,000 over 10 years.

The government is also reviewing animal welfare laws.

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