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

Genevieve Jacobs 2 January 2020 39
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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39 Responses to Major institutions, pools and tourist attractions shut due to hazardous air quality
dukethunder dukethunder 11:48 pm 03 Jan 20

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.

jgsma jgsma 1:20 pm 03 Jan 20

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?

Renate Barton Renate Barton 10:17 am 03 Jan 20

Understand all of these but why the post office?

    Angharad Dean Angharad Dean 12:15 pm 03 Jan 20

    Renate Barton posties breath poisoned air when they are out delivering all day

    Renate Barton Renate Barton 8:09 pm 03 Jan 20

    Yes, I understand that and I agree. But how does this apply to inside the post offices?

    Angharad Dean Angharad Dean 8:12 am 04 Jan 20

    Renate Barton don’t know 😞

Alexandra Hughes Alexandra Hughes 6:26 am 03 Jan 20

Life will be funny when as the power stations are gone, only electric cars which you cant charge, rubbish dumps full of electrical appliances no longer allowed to be used like air-conditioners, no more cruise ships, no more overseas travel, it just gets better. I can't wait. 😊

    Laura O. Watkins Laura O. Watkins 8:33 am 03 Jan 20

    So stick solar on your rooftops and charge your electric car.

    Laura O. Watkins Laura O. Watkins 10:13 am 03 Jan 20

    For the rest of it, work on making it better. No one fix will get everything, but anything you do that helps is worth it.

    Fortress Epiphany Fortress Epiphany 5:33 pm 03 Jan 20

    Alexandra Hughes haha, Greta would be so proud 😃😃😃😃

Narrelle Kelly Narrelle Kelly 3:42 am 03 Jan 20

Isn’t voting for no action on climate change paying off- it would be like we had fresh air but coal miners might suffer- go aussies

SP Brogues SP Brogues 3:40 am 03 Jan 20

If the government closes it the organisers would be crying for compensation.

Klaunu Slepkava Klaunu Slepkava 12:05 am 03 Jan 20

Thanks to the #MorrisonBushfires

Julie Patricia Smith Julie Patricia Smith 11:23 pm 02 Jan 20

It would be perfectly possible for the act government to cancel the Summernats burnouts and fireworks

This is because both events would be illegal in normal circumstances

In a total fire an you cannot hold a fireworks display

In normal circumstances you are not allowed to burn tyres because the fumes are toxic and carcinogenic hence an exemption from pollution laws and fines is needed and given each year by the act government

If the government withdraws that exemption and applied the total fireban to Summernats too we could of course stop these silly activities at Summernats leave our police and fire services to focus on the 42degrees and strong winds coming to Canberra on Saturday

Margaret Collis Margaret Collis 10:24 pm 02 Jan 20

Canberra is currently cocooned by a smoke cloud giving us the worst air quality readings in the world. New Year Eve celebrations were cancelled, public institutions have been closed, swimming centres have been closed and sporting fixtures have been cancelled. And now Australia Post deliveries have been suspended. All of these decisions would have been difficult and should be applauded for putting public health and safety above profit. Then along comes Summernats with their burnouts that pour acrid toxic smoke in the air that impacts on all the people living nearby and no-one says a word ... the politicians (all parties) are silent, the media just promotes the festival, asks about the smoke and accepts the response that “it’s just a bit more smoke in the air”! They, along with the organisers are being totally irresponsible. SUMMERNATS BURNOUTS SHOULD BE CANCELLED!

    Shane Morton Shane Morton 10:28 pm 02 Jan 20

    Margaret Collis are they seriously not cancelling them? That is insane!

    Margaret Collis Margaret Collis 10:44 pm 02 Jan 20

    Shane Morton Totally incomprehensible .. apparently money is more important than people’s health.

    Julie Patricia Smith Julie Patricia Smith 11:15 pm 02 Jan 20

    Margaret Collis burnouts and fireworks scheduled for Saturday

    42 degrees and twenty knot winds

    Selfish gits diverting and occupying resources like firefighting and police resources and preventing use of epic Showgrounds for evacuation of animals

    Glen Chitty Glen Chitty 11:49 pm 02 Jan 20

    Julie Patricia Smith crazy !!😡

    Debbie Thomsen Debbie Thomsen 12:06 am 03 Jan 20

    I call BS on you. As if the organisers are the irresponsible that they would risk fireworks during a total fire ban. You NIMBY boomers are spreading lies and fear. STOP LYING!!

    Caitlin Brooks Caitlin Brooks 12:09 am 03 Jan 20

    nothing has been cancelled Debbie.

    Carrie Wright Carrie Wright 12:33 am 03 Jan 20

    settle down Debbie! No one is lying

    Julie Patricia Smith Julie Patricia Smith 12:54 am 03 Jan 20

    Debbie Thomsen it’s on the program

    Julie Patricia Smith Julie Patricia Smith 12:57 am 03 Jan 20

    Can you read? If so read this :



    In the program

    Not cancelled to my knowledge but please correct me if you have any facts to hand rather than abuse

Margaret Haberfield Margaret Haberfield 10:24 pm 02 Jan 20

Kerry Hanrahan this is the article about Lakeside Leisure Centre being one of many closures.

Paul Mills Paul Mills 8:29 pm 02 Jan 20

Agree with that.

Sue White Sue White 8:03 pm 02 Jan 20

Rachel Howard re ANU XX

Lucy Baker Lucy Baker 7:50 pm 02 Jan 20

But $ummernat$ is safe….

Susie Kennett Susie Kennett 7:03 pm 02 Jan 20

Leah Smith this is how bad it is

Teresa Spedone Teresa Spedone 6:01 pm 02 Jan 20

Is it not irresponsible of the ACT government not to cancel summernats?

    Belinda Saunders Belinda Saunders 6:16 pm 02 Jan 20

    Teresa Spedone it is not a Government event. It would be up to the organisers.

    Teresa Spedone Teresa Spedone 6:50 pm 02 Jan 20

    I don't know who can cancel it but there is a responsibility to people to keep them safe and hazardous air is detrimental to health. Canberra is rated as having THE worst air quality inn THE WORLD at the moment. Add to that the heat wave conditions and the number of people fleeing the south coast and the kosciosko national park and tell me that it is not a recipe for disaster.

    Veronika Sain Veronika Sain 9:02 pm 02 Jan 20

    I’m sure if you enjoy the smoke from burning tyres that you’d not care about breathing bushfire smoke. In fact the bushfire smoke would probably be less harmful 🤔

    Margaret Collis Margaret Collis 9:35 pm 02 Jan 20

    Teresa Spedone Agree! Agree! Agree! New Year Eve celebrations cancelled. National Institutions closed. Swimming Centres closed. Sporting fixtures closed. They should all be applauded for putting public health and safety ahead of profit. As for Summernats ... they and their supporters see burnouts as “just a bit more smoke in the air”! All parties of government are very quiet over this issue, as are the media who don’t ask the hard questions of the organisers. In the current conditions the Summernats burnouts should be cancelled!

Rauny Worm Rauny Worm 5:18 pm 02 Jan 20

It makes total sense to shut down and encourage people to prepare for the worst and stay out of the air...

Sarah Emmerson Sarah Emmerson 5:10 pm 02 Jan 20


Julia Dunn Julia Dunn 5:04 pm 02 Jan 20

Melissa Dunn. The ANU will close until Tuesday

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