Theme park loans ‘at point of signing’ before collapse
THE State Government was on the cusp of a signing a loan deal to save Gold Coast theme parks after months of work when the Federal Coalition pulled pin, Kate Jones has revealed.
Speaking to media at Sea World's official reopening yesterday morning, Queensland Tourism Minister Ms Jones told the Bulletin negotiations had effectively been put back to square one after the Federal Government pulled out at the 11th hour.
Eight-figure loans had been earmarked for ailing Village Roadshow and Ardent Leisure's Dreamworld but in a shock move were taken off the table earlier this week when the Federal Government walked away from the deal.
The Bulletin revealed on Wednesday both operators which employ thousands - including 5000 at Village parks - had been left looking to State Government for support.
"We were going down one path which we'd been working on for months at officer level," Ms Jones said yesterday.
"In fact, when I called the officers to advise them that (Federal Government) was no longer going to be party to the contract, we were at the stage where contracts were drawn up.
"So we have to rewrite and re-examine (contracts). We were right at the point of signing that contract but we have to go back now.
"But of course we want to look at it and get it expedited as quickly as possible."
Village CEO Clark Kirby has said the company has been back to "deep" discussions with State Government about bridging finance.
Theme park officials had been in talks with Export Finance Australia for several months about securing loans to help battle through the coronavirus.
City and tourism industry leaders have already spoken out about the now-defunct deal, with several labelling the theme parks "critical" to the Gold Coast's success as well as that off suppliers, accommodation and more.
Tourism and Transport CEO Margy Osmond said the parks were "as vital to the Coast's visitor economy as its natural beauty".
"They drive visitation and accommodation bookings and employ around 6000 people, most of them local residents," she said.
"It is disappointing to hear Federal funding support for the industry was withdrawn at the 11th hour after a three-month process which by all intents and purposes was on track.
"This sort of uncertainty in the COVID-19 environment makes it even more difficult for the tourism-dependent businesses like the theme parks.
"They have been haemorrhaging money for several months and with an uncertain future as long as travel restrictions both domestically and internationally remain in place, they are facing a bleak future."
Destination Gold Coast data this week showed the theme parks attract seven million visitors through their doors annually. Shadow Tourism Minister David Crisafulli said this week the parks were "too important too fail".
Originally published as Theme park loans 'at point of signing' before collapse