Weighing and checking juvenile kiwi at Wairakei Kiwi Sanctuary
Image: Shellie Evans | ©


This fund supports wildlife institutions impacted by the COVID-19 response. Applications closed 27 July 2020.

The $14.89 million Wildlife Institutions Relief Fund has been established to support wildlife institutions affected by a loss of revenue (including forecast revenue) due to the impacts of the COVID-19 response. 

Purpose of the fund

The COVID-19 response has severely reduced wildlife institutions’ revenue from visitor admissions, particularly from international visitors and from domestic visitors during lockdown. With the continuing closure of New Zealand’s borders, revenue is likely to remain low for the 2020/21 financial year.

Ecosanctuaries, zoos, aquariums, wildlife parks, and wildlife rescue, hospital and rehabilitation facilities provide crucial support for the recovery of our indigenous and threatened species. The protection and welfare of New Zealand’s threatened species is at risk if these facilities closed, and where rehoming isn’t always a viable option.

This one-off funding for 2020-21 will be administered by DOC and will mitigate the risk of closure for vital wildlife protection facilities.

DOC is calling for Expressions of Interest applications from wildlife institutions that contribute to the conservation of New Zealand’s indigenous species and have been impacted by the COVID-19 response.

The funding for this support package comes from Budget 2020. The Zoo Aquarium Association Australasia and Sanctuaries of New Zealand Inc. as representative organisations for the wildlife institutions sector, have provided input on the needs and challenges facing their members.  

Application timeline

  • 11 July 2020: Expression of Interest applications open
  • 27 July 2020: Expression of Interest applications closed
  • 5 August 2020: DOC/MPI evaluation process
  • 17 August 2020: DOC/MPI approval process
  • 19 August 2020: Institutions notified
  • 26 August 2020: Finalisation of contracts and funds releases

Dates following the close of applications on 27 July (which is a fixed date), are approximate.

How to submit your Expression of Interest

Applications closed 5 pm 27 July 2020

1. Prepare your application

Your application must user the Expression of Interest form, accompanied with the required supporting material.

Provide a full and complete electronic application. Before you submit your application, review and ensure that you have included all necessary attachments on the application checklist.

Form update

At 22 July 2020 the form was updated to version 2. There were two changes.

Section 5: Declaration by Applicant – the block should state ‘If you answered no to any of the above, please explain below’.If you're using the original form, you can cross out the yes, replace with a no. You can also make a statement that ‘Yes, the information provided is consistent with the above requirements’ assuming that is the case.

Reference to a ‘WIRF Expression of Interest Guidance’ document. This was in the Proposal Checklist, p.3 of the EoI and is an error and has been removed, as all guidance is contained within the EoI form.

Form guidance

For the 'Summary of alignment with WIRF selection criteria' it only needs to be one or two sentences.

2. Send your application before 27 July 2020

Email your application to wirf@doc.govt.nz.

Use this email address for all correspondence concerning the application.

The closing date for applications is 5 pm, 27 July 2020.

What happens next

All applications received will be acknowledged and a project number provided.

Applications will be assessed against the eligibility and assessment criteria by a panel from DOC and the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI). The panel may request further information from applicants during the assessment process.

Applicants will be notified of the outcome of their application once a decision has been made. This is expected to be by mid-August 2020.  

DOC reserves the right to issue media statements concerning successful Wildlife Institutions Relief Fund applications.

Severely impacted institutions are encouraged to contact DOC at wirf@doc.govt.nz as soon as possible if they believe they will require funding support before the end of August to remain operating, as they may be eligible for out-of-round (emergency) assistance.

Successful applications

Grants that have been approved will be made subject to conditions, and successful applicants will be required to enter into a Deed of Grant. This Deed will include the timing of funding payments and reporting provisions.


Application information provided to DOC will be treated as sensitive and should remain confidential between the applicant and the Fund, and for those whom the Fund needs to consult in the process.

Funding criteria

What funding applications are for

  • Urgent and critical operational costs to maintain animal welfare of indigenous and exotic species.
  • Retaining specialist staff.
  • Preventing the collapse of recovery programmes for our most threatened species.

What funding applications are not for

  • Expanding or upgrading existing facilities.
  • Recruiting additional resources.
  • Establishing new programmes of work or acquiring new assets/animals.
  • Capital works.

Eligibility and assessment

Applications will be assessed against the following criteria:

  1. Demonstrated reductions in revenue due to the impacts of the COVID-19 response, and forecast reductions in revenue for 2020-21 (including the number of potential job losses).
  2. Historical numbers of international and domestic visitors, demonstrated reductions since January 2020, and forecast visitor numbers for 2020-21.
  3. Efforts made by the institution to generate new revenue, such as fundraising initiatives.
  4. The institution’s relative focus, and the number of staff employed, on:
    a. breeding and recovery, and other conservation programmes, for the restoration of Aotearoa’s indigenous threatened species
    b. other indigenous and exotic species.
  5. Alternative forms of government COVID-19 economic recovery initiatives (such as the Wage Subsidy Programme, the Strategic Tourism Assets Protection Programme and the Jobs for Nature initiative) and Provincial Growth Fund funding, that have been sought.
  6. Demonstrated levels of community support and volunteer involvement.
  7. Levels of cash reserves and other assets.
  8. Commitment to Animal Welfare Act 1999 requirements, including animal welfare contingency plan requirements under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996, and the Biosecurity Act 1993 (specified in the Standard for Zoo Containment Facilities and the Zoo Code of Welfare).
  9. Commitment to a revision of the institution’s business plan, to consider the commercial viability of the institution in an environment of potential prolonged reductions in visitor revenue.
  10. Indigenous and exotic species cared for.


Email wirf@doc.govt.nz. with any questions or feedback about the Fund.

Questions and responses may be added to this web page for the information of all potential applicants. Any parts of questions that may identify the questioner will be removed. 

Further information including requirements

Prioritising applications

Funding will support those institutions most strongly impacted by COVID-19. A final list will be developed, but those institutions conducting vital conservation activities and facing immediate threats of closure will be prioritised for support. Several institutions have been in touch with DOC, and if there are other institutions in a similar position, they are encouraged to contact DOC at wirf@doc.govt.nz.

The level of funding available

The level of funding an institution receives will be based on need, within the limits of the $14.89 m total funding available for all institutions.

Institutions will be required to apply for funding, and applications will be assessed against established eligibility criteria. These criteria will include forecast reductions in revenue due to COVID-19, focus on breeding and recovery programmes for New Zealand’s endangered species, focus on ensuring animal welfare requirements of all animals are met, levels of existing cash reserves, and a commitment to assessing their own longer-term viability.

If the Fund is over-subscribed, priority will be given to institutions with a greater proportion of their focus on the conservation of New Zealand’s indigenous threatened species. This will be a decision of the assessment panel and DOC may engage with individual institutions to determine whether a reduced amount of funding from that requested would be sufficient to maintain critical aspects of an institution’s conservation work.  

Closures of wildlife institutions

In the event of closure, wildlife institutions would enact their closure plans and look to rehome the animals they hold. Under the Animal Welfare Act 1999, animal welfare is the responsibility of the person in charge of the animal or institution, and wildlife institutions need to manage this even if they close.

If required, the Ministry for Primary Industries can step in to ensure the people in charge of the animals or institutions can meet the animal welfare needs of their animals. For indigenous animals, DOC may also become involved to support rehoming.

Longer-term survival of wildlife institutions with reduced international visitors

Domestic visitation accounts for the majority of visitors to most wildlife institutions, however international visitors also account for a significant portion of these institutions’ revenue. 

Many of these institutions will need to evolve and adapt to survive in the post-COVID context. This support package aims to provide short-term support while wildlife institutions develop and implement plans for their medium/long-term survival. Any institutions receiving support from the Fund will need to consider their longer-term viability and how they will survive with possibly no international visitation in the immediate future.

Supporting our wildlife institutions

As with other businesses that rely on tourism and have experienced reduced visitation, many wildlife institutions have or will be running promotions and other initiatives to attract additional local visitors.

Many wildlife institutions are important partners with DOC for threatened species recovery, and as such we encourage all New Zealanders to visit and support these institutions, which helps support our conservation activities.

Animal welfare

If your institution requires assistance in relation to animal welfare matters, please contact the Ministry for Primary Industries on 0800 0083 33.

Legislative requirements

Applicants are to check that their facilities meet the requirements relating to:

  • Animal Welfare Act 1999
  • Biosecurity Act 1993
  • Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996
  • Wildlife Act 1953
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