2 January 2020

Major institutions, pools and tourist attractions shut due to hazardous air quality

| Genevieve Jacobs
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National Zoo and Aquarium

National Zoo and Aquarium staff say they are prioritising animal wellbeing but the zoo remains open. Photo: File.

Postal deliveries have been suspended, pools have closed and several major tourist attractions have shut their doors as Canberra continues to grapple with air quality on par with the most polluted cities in the world.

“The safety of our people is our top priority, and with hazardous smoke conditions continuing across ACT, we are suspending all postie and van deliveries until further notice,” Australia Post said in a statement. Customers with enquires about their mail are asked to check the Tracker Tool or contact Australia Post on 13 POST.

“We apologise for any inconvenience, however, we must do what is right for our people. We thank customers for their patience and understanding.”

The National Zoo and Aquarium and Jamala Wildlife Lodge remain open although business manager Russell Jackson said the staff’s first priority was the wellbeing of animals.

“The animals are doing well although, like people, they are affected in various ways,” he told Region Media. “We’ve tried to keep them inside enclosures, to use fans and move them to less-affected areas if possible.

“We’re currently open because we need to care for the animals, so we are still welcoming visitors but asking people to make their own judgments, bearing in mind the ACT Health warnings about hazardous air quality. We did have some P2 masks available for those who wanted them, but we’ve actually run out.”

Major institutions including the National Museum are monitoring the situation and Questacon has opted to shut after struggling with the amount of smoke caused by patrons entering and leaving the building. Both institutions will make a decision about opening each day at 8:00 am, considering conditions.

The ANU also announced this afternoon that its Acton, Mt Stromlo and Kioloa campuses would be shut until Tuesday, January 7 for all but essential staff. A statement said that while there is no immediate threat to the campus, “this is a precautionary measure to ensure the health and wellbeing of our community”.

ANU staff who are volunteering with the RFS will have access to extra leave, and the ANU says it will match the Australian Government’s 20 extra days of paid leave.

One of the risks for major institutions is that a substantial volume of smoke inside the building will set off smoke detectors and potentially activate fire responses.

Cockington Green has also closed and multiple local pools have shut their gates. These include:

  • Gungahlin Leisure Centre
  • Lakeside Leisure Centre
  • Canberra Olympic Pool
  • Little Sandpiper – Belconnen
  • Big Splash Waterpark Canberra
  • Dickson Aquatic Centre
  • Canberra Aqua Park
  • Manuka Pool
  • QPRC Aquatics (outside pools closed).

Multiple parks and reserves are also closed, including:

  • Namadgi National Park (including the visitor centre)
  • Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve (including the visitor centre)
  • Lower Cotter Catchment
  • Bullen Range Nature Reserve (west of the river only)
  • Stony Creek Nature Reserve (west of the river only)
  • Blue Range Forest
  • Pierces Creek Forest
  • Hyles and Sherwood Forest
  • Ingledene Forest
  • Uriarra Forest (not including picnic areas at Uriarra Crossing)
  • Googong Foreshores
  • Kowen Forest
  • Lower Molonglo River Corridor
  • Molonglo Gorge Nature Reserve
  • Mulligans Flat Sanctuary including Goorooyarroo Nature Reserve
  • Centenary Trail between Goorooyarroo Nature Reserve and Hall.

Smoke haze from the coast and mountain fires, depending on wind direction, is expected to remain in Canberra for several more days and visibility will continue to be poor. ACT Policing has urged people to turn on their headlights, not just parking lights, and drive to conditions at all times.

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That is weird. Can’t imagine it was smoke related. Sky was almost blue today in belco. Best day we’ve had the last week.

Went this morning, for the third time to Belconnen Government shopfront to find it closed but Tuggers, Woden and Gungahlin open – very peculiar. It was obviously ok for me to drive around in the smoke looking for a shopfront to do business which I cannot do on-line. Kaleen post office is open and I do understand why posties are not out delivering.
Lucky there’s no climate change, eh?

But $ummernat$ is safe….

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