Australia Zoo’s major drawcard Bindi Irwin feeds the elephants with Wes Mannion by her side.
Australia Zoo’s major drawcard Bindi Irwin feeds the elephants with Wes Mannion by her side. Brett Wortman

Australia Zoo says it will fight on despite tough times

AUSTRALIA Zoo has promised to keep Steve Irwin's dream alive in "challenging" times amid claims the tourism attraction is on the brink of collapse.

In a statement,the Beerwah business said it regretted the recent retrenchment of 22 staff but stressed it would survive.

The zoo said the retrenchments were in response to Queensland's recent volatile weather, which had "greatly affected" its operations.

It comes after New Idea magazine revealed its latest edition would feature an exclusive story alleging recent developments at the zoo, including dismissals of up to 30 staff and significant financial losses.

The allegations come just a month after the Daily first revealed the zoo had sacked 22 employees and forced dozens of other workers to take unpaid leave and job share.

>> Read the most recent stories about Australia Zoo here

Zoo management blamed the job losses on fewer visitors due to floods and the global economic crisis.

But former Australia Zoo receptionist Amy-Lee Hines has reportedly told New Idea "a lot of people are scared to tell the truth but the truth needs to be told".

"If things don't turn around, (Australia Zoo) will go down," she is quoted as saying.

New Idea said, of the 30 people it spoke to, multiple sources claimed the zoo's financial woes had nothing to do with the global financial crisis and recent floods but everything to do with a management team struggling without their one-man brand.

"It's terrible," the zoo's former curator Bruce Murdock is quoted as saying.

"They have blown millions on poor planning and poor execution.

"They have dreams but they don't know how to put a structure in place to make it happen.

"There is no funding allocation, no budgeting for the long-term.

"Steve had a lot of dreams. But they were massive dreams that only he could fund.

"After Steve died, they said they were still doing everything he wanted. They are trying to do it on the back of Bindi and Terri but I don't think they can support it."

The Daily approached zoo officials to respond to the allegations before the magazine hit the streets but they did not accept the offer.

It is not the first time the zoo has cut jobs to keep out of the red.

In March, 2009, the Daily reported the zoo's announcement it would lay off 26 staff and delay expansion.

Employees who fell victim to the most recent staff culling, and former employees, blogged on the Daily website about their experiences.

Shiloh McFee, from Happy Valley, wrote that she had been assured her long-term job was secure the week before she was laid off.

"I was sat down by management and assured my position was safe and I was one of the 'lucky ones'," she said.

"I was told they had been laying off most casual staff, with that number of staff being around 40 or more.

"But full-time staff were not being laid off, as last time they made people redundant it was an expensive exercise.

"After being told the news, four days later I was being made redundant and handed my little white envelope.

"The lowest point of this whole thing though was the fact that when walking out with the past seven and a half years of my working life in a box, I walked past (the bosses), not even receiving eye contact or a goodbye."

Former employee Granger, from Morningside, claimed many had been "exploited in some way".

"I am so sad to hear about this happening again, and to use the floods as an excuse is disgusting," he said.

"The upper management there are toxic and it filters down to everyone else."

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