And finally… Bear a grudge
Millions of dollars of taxpayer money handed to a theme park for a state-of-the-art facility to protect endangered koalas has instead been diverted to build a new rollercoaster, it has emerged.
The government of Queensland in Australia provided $2.7 million to build the Future Lab wildlife research centre at Dreamworld, on the Gold Coast, in 2019.
During budget estimates hearings this week, the state’s tourism minister, Stirling Hinchliffe, and his department were forced to admit they did not know what happened to the cash, The Guardian reports.
Mr Hinchliffe confirmed the wildlife project had been delayed and the funding was used to build the Steel Taipan attraction.
“In early 2020, Dreamworld requested that the project be placed on hold while it focused its future investment activities on new rides and attractions,” Mr Hinchliffe told the estimates hearing.
The theme park was closed for business during 2020 with pandemic lockdowns and restrictions in place.
In a bid to kickstart the tourist industry, the government launched the $25m Growing Tourism Infrastructure Fund to accelerate its recovery from Covid-19.
“Under that fund, we saw Dreamworld seeking assistance for the support and construction of a new multi-launch rollercoaster ride,” Mr Hinchliffe said.
The park was given the green light to “repurpose” the funding.
“The Queensland government approved that the funding previously approved for the research facility be repurposed to support the construction of the new ride, taking into consideration the immediate impacts of the pandemic and the appeal of new tourism offers likely to attract returning domestic visitors and international tourists when borders reopened,” Mr Hinchliffe said.
“I am pleased to advise that where that ended up was in the newest attraction, the Steel Taipan, which opened in December 2021.”
The Liberal National party’s spokesperson for the environment, Sam O’Connor, asked: “So the koala lab funding went to a rollercoaster?”