Assets of cash-strapped Adelaide Zoo would be at risk if the zoo defaulted on its loan to Westpac, evidence to the Budget and Finance Committee revealed today.
Chief Executive of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Allan Holmes made the stunning revelation:
Hon Rob Lucas MLC: “Given the advice you’ve given to this Committee in relation to the Zoo not having a Government guarantee on its loan to a bank, is it your understanding and your advice that if the Zoo defaults on its loan that bank will have ownership of some or all of the assets of the Zoo?”
Mr Holmes: “I think it’s fair to say that some of the assets of the Zoo would be at risk, bearing in mind that the land on which the Zoo sits is Crown land that is certainly not at risk.”
Hon Rob Lucas MLC: “So what is your understanding of which assets the Zoo put up as security for the loan with the bank?”
Mr Holmes: “I don’t have those details.”
“Environment and Conservation Minister Paul Caica must immediately come clean and indicate which of the Zoo’s assets are at risk if the Zoo defaults on its loan,” Shadow Finance Minister Rob Lucas said.
“Mr Holmes also told the Committee all the Government’s $3.1 million grant for 2011-12 had been given to the Zoo, and in addition another $500,000 was given to the Zoo this week. Clearly this extra taxpayer funding was needed to help bail out the Zoo from its financial problems.
“The Labor Government cannot wash its hands of responsibility because it has had three Government nominees on the Board during the period when all of these decisions were being made.
“Mr Holmes also advised the Committee that park entrance fees to Belair National Park had increased by 29% from $8.50 per car to $11 per car. Incredibly, the Department indicated that no modelling had been done on whether such a significant increase in fees might lead to a reduction in visitor numbers to Belair.
“Mr Holmes also indicated the Government was still considering the possibility of a further significant increase in park entrance fees over the next two years.”