Legislative Council: Wednesday, March 22, 2023


Zoos SA

The Hon. J.S. LEE (Deputy Leader of the Opposition) (17:33): I move:

That this council—

1. Recognises Zoos SA was originally established in 1878 as The Acclimatisation Society of South Australia, and is one of the state’s oldest conservation organisations;

2. Notes that both Adelaide Zoo and Monarto Safari Park are long-established parts of the South Australian community and have been integral to the state’s tourism industry;

3. Congratulates Adelaide Zoo for winning the Major Tourist Attractions category at the 2022 South Australian Tourism Awards;

4. Congratulates Monarto Safari Park for winning the Tourist Attractions category, Excellence in Accessible Tourism category and Voters’ Choice Award at the 2022 South Australian Tourism Awards; and

5. Commends Zoos SA for representing South Australia at the Great Wine Capitals Global Network and winning the 2023 Global Best of Wine Tourism Award for the ‘Grapes for Good’ program, and for the support the program brings to tourism in the Langhorne Creek region.

It is a great honour to rise today to move the motion standing in my name. As the shadow minister for tourism and hospitality, it is my privilege to speak about the outstanding achievements of Zoos SA and to recognise the remarkable history as well as incredible contribution that Zoos SA makes to its wildlife conservation, education and support for the South Australian tourism industry.

As an organisation, Zoos SA has proven itself to be resilient and adaptable despite a number of challenges, including restrictions on the number of visitors allowed on site during the coronavirus pandemic period. Zoos SA remained steadfast in continuing to deliver on their purpose of connecting people with nature and saving species from extinction.

With more than 135 years of history, Zoos SA has long been established as an integral part of the South Australian community's heritage and social history and is one of the state's oldest conservation organisations. Zoos SA was first known as the Acclimatisation Society of SA when it was established on 23 July 1878, at a meeting attended by many prominent Adelaide citizens. The patrons included Joseph Fisher, William Magarey, Samuel Davenport, George Kingston, William Milne, John Morphett and Henry Scott, as well as the society's founder and the first president, Chief Justice Samuel Way.

Since the beginning, the society has had a keen interest in the care and preservation of both native and exotic rare and endangered species. Its founder, Chief Justice Samuel Way, said:

With introducing and domesticating 'select animal, insect and bird species' from the British Isles 'whether useful or ornamental…in the hope that they may be permanently established here and impart to our somewhat unmelodious hills and woods the music and harmony of English country life.

The vision set by the founder projected hopes that insect-destroying birds of the mother country would help diversify the South Australian agriculture industry.

Over the years, the society would change its name several times, becoming the SA Zoological and Acclimatisation Society in 1882. In 1937, to celebrate the society's diamond jubilee, King George VI granted the society a royal charter and with it came the right to use the prefix 'royal'. Thus, the society became known as the Royal Zoological Society of SA, which is until this day the official name of Zoos SA.

On 23 May 1883, Sir William Robinson opened Adelaide Zoo to the public, making it the second oldest zoo in Australia. As a not-for-profit organisation, it has more than 45,000 members today. With such a rich history, the Adelaide Zoo retains many of its original buildings, garden design and features, some of which are state heritage listed places. This includes a head keeper's cottage, built in 1883; the Thomas Elder Rotunda, built in 1884; the Minchin House, built in 1887; and the Elephant House, built in1900.

To make special mention of the Elephant House, our Indian community in South Australia is very respectful of the Elephant House. The Hindu community helped restore the elephant god, Lord Ganesha, at the Adelaide Zoo. Lord Ganesha, as some honourable members would know, clears obstacles and paves the way to move forward in life, and is still a very respectful statue in the Adelaide Zoo.

I thank Elaine Bensted, Chief Executive of Zoos SA, together with Dr Phil Ainsley, Director of Adelaide Zoo, for meeting with the Hon. Dr. Nicola Centofanti, the Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Council, and myself last year to provide key updates about the operation. We appreciate them showing us around the site. I recall that it was a wet, rainy day. The animals knew that it was going to rain before we actually did, because the giraffe, for example, was suddenly running into the shelter sensing the change of weather.

Last year, the Leader of the Opposition, the Hon. David Speirs, and the Liberal parliamentary team had the pleasure of visiting Monarto Safari Park. I thank Peter Clark, Director, Monarto Safari Park, and Sarah Brown, Director, Community Engagement, for showing us the latest development, which included the new visitor centre at Monarto Safari Park that was completed in March 2022. The construction was made possible with the investment of $15.8 million in funding from the former Australian Liberal government and the Marshall Liberal state government.

The former Liberal government, at the national and state levels, are very proud to have supported the development of the visitor centre as the first stage of the Monarto zoo expansion project. The government funding helped unlock $35 million in private investment to develop a range of accommodation facilities at Monarto zoo. The stakeholders involved with Zoos SA have expressed their appreciation to the former Liberal government for working together in strong partnership with industry in order to deliver a major boost for the state's tourism credentials, and will further bolster economic activity in South Australia.

This world-class visitor centre at Monarto Safari Park was the first of three phases that has seen Monarto Safari Park transform into the largest safari experience outside of Africa. It has cemented Monarto zoo's reputation as a must-visit nature and wildlife destination, with a resort hotel under construction—providing onsite accommodation of a 78-room hotel and glamping facilities—to be opened by a private investor as part of a multimillion-dollar expansion.

With the opening of the new visitor centre, I learned from the member for Hammond in the other place, Mr Adrian Pederick, that the impact was felt around the entire region, with locals and city dwellers descending on Monarto to answer the call of the wild. As the shadow minister for tourism and hospitality, I am very excited about the type of nature-based experiences that can be offered at Monarto.

Monarto zoo is already one of the largest open-range zoos in the world, attracting around 160,000 visitors each year, and the exciting upgrades and expansion will help enhance the visitor experience and allow the zoo to welcome many more visitors. There will be a huge, positive flow-on effect to our two iconic zoos that enhance the South Australian economy. They will bring thousands of visitors into South Australia every year, who stand to spend millions of dollars visiting other attractions, sleeping in our many hotels and dining in our restaurants.

Zoos SA Chief Executive, Elaine Bensted, revealed that the investment in two of South Australia's major tourism attractions helped Zoos SA to unlock growth in the tourism industry, continue to meet the needs of visitors and generate additional economic activity for the South Australian economy.

By touring some of the new facilities, my Liberal colleagues and I vividly recall venturing into a behind-the-scenes area and coming face-to-face with a truly impressive southern white rhino bull. The southern white rhino is one of the largest land animals on Earth and has the biggest horn of all rhinos. With a keeper to guide us that day, we discovered that despite his size and stature the gentle giant rhino enjoyed a tickle behind the ears.

On the topic of rhinos, I am really sad to report that more than a thousand rhinos were killed in South Africa last year alone; hence, in a world first, Zoos SA is working with the Australian Rhino Project and other Australian zoos to build an insurance population in Australia. Having experienced it personally, I certainly got a deeper appreciation of why Monarto Safari Park has grown to become an international standard conservation and zoological park and an iconic South Australia destination, since it opened to the public in October 1993.

Today, Monarto Safari Park is one of the world's largest open-range zoos, covering 1,500 hectares and plays a major role in numerous breeding programs for both native and exotic species, many of which also are rare and endangered species. Our safari park is the largest in Australia, and with the opening of the new African precinct it will become the largest safari experience in the world outside of Africa.

While the primary objectives of Adelaide Zoo and Monarto Safari Park are wildlife conservation and education, there is no doubt that they are two of the premier tourist attractions in South Australia, and the impact they have made on the state's tourism industry is immense. Animal and nature lovers from across Australia and the world are consistently visiting Adelaide Zoo and Monarto Safari Park as part of their holiday and leisure experiences here.

This perhaps can be demonstrated by the numerous awards that both Adelaide Zoo and Monarto Safari Park have received over the years. In particular, I would like to highlight the Tourism Industry Council of South Australia's 2022 SA Tourism Awards, which recognised the best tourism businesses in the state and for which Zoos SA has won multiple awards.

I had the pleasure of attending the tourism awards gala last year with the Leader of the Opposition, the Hon. David Speirs, who shares the same passion with me in tourism, especially ecotourism and nature-based tourism developments in South Australia. We were most impressed that Adelaide Zoo was awarded the Major Tourist Attractions award, which recognises natural or built attractions that people visit for pleasure and interest, and attracts the highest visitor numbers into South Australia.

It is indeed very rewarding to see that South Australia is nationally and internationally competitive. Adelaide Zoo then went on to represent South Australia at the Australian Tourism Awards held on Friday 17 March, where they won the coveted gold medal in the Major Tourist Attractions category, beating out the National Zoo & Aquarium and other tourist destinations.

It was certainly a golden moment for Adelaide Zoo to be recognised as an iconic attraction for its unique behind-the-scenes experiences and its commitment to sustainability and conservation. It is the first time a South Australian tourism organisation has ever charted in the top three in the category—definitely an absolute coup for our state.

Monarto Safari Park was awarded with the Tourist Attractions, Excellence in Accessible Tourism and the Voter's Choice Award. These awards recognise the significant visitor numbers that Monarto Safari Park attracts to South Australia as well as its welcoming atmosphere and services for people of all abilities.

Zoos SA also had the privilege to represent South Australia at the 2023 Best of Wine Tourism Awards, as part of the state's membership in the prestigious Great Wine Capitals Global Network, and won the Tourism Collaboration Excellence Award for its Grapes for Good Program. The Grapes for Good initiative is a partnership between Zoos SA and six wineries from the Langhorne Creek region, namely Kimbolton Wines, Bleasdale, Bremerton, Lake Breeze, the Winehouse and the Vineyard Road wineries.

Each winery partner came together to create a unique mix of wines that support the conservation efforts, with part proceeds from the sale of these wines supporting Zoos SA's conservation mission. The multitude of awards and accolades that have been bestowed upon Zoos SA proves its consistent excellency and importance in its contributions to and representation of the South Australian community and the state's tourism industry. Both Adelaide Zoo and Monarto Safari Park have and continue to represent the very best that South Australia has to offer, both on the national and international stages.

In conclusion, I would like to place my special thanks and congratulations on the public record to acknowledge the fantastic work and strong leadership by: Chief Executive of Zoos SA, Ms Elaine Bensted; Director of Adelaide Zoo, Dr Phil Ainsley; Director of Monarto Safari Park, Mr Peter Clark; and all the senior management team, and also acknowledge the president and board members who contributed their time, skills, knowledge and expertise to manage and govern the affairs of Zoos SA.

Congratulations to the entire team, to the 45,000 devoted members and volunteers, for their commitment to wildlife conservation. It is a great honour today to recognise the outstanding work of Zoos SA for their long-established role in the South Australian community. They have been integral to the state's tourism industry. I wholeheartedly commend the motion to the chamber.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. I.K. Hunter.