A travel company has been forced to pay AU$5000 ($5360) in fines after three busloads of tourists drove to Taronga's Western Plans Zoo in regional NSW despite current health orders in place.
According to the animal attraction in Dubbo, when the buses arrived – which were carrying 128 guests and staff on-board – police were called by zoo staff immediately.
Police said at least 76 people on board were not supposed to leave Greater Sydney under the current health orders.
The incident, which occurred at 9.30am on Monday, resulted in the Sydney guests being forced to return home from the zoo immediately.
"The staff at the zoo did exactly the right thing – they isolated the risk and alerted police. They did a great job to protect the local community," said State Emergency Operations Controller, Deputy Commissioner Gary Worboys.
It is understood the company owner told police he was aware of the public health orders but decided to continue with the tour as planned anyway.
Minister for Police and Emergency Services, David Elliott, said the breach to the current health orders was disappointing.
"I would appeal to everyone to not only follow the rules but use your common sense and do your bit to help NSW beat this virus," Minister Elliott said.
A spokesperson for Taronga said they were assured from the tour operator that all guests on board the buses were complying with current NSW health orders.
"During COVID check-in at the coach bay, the group disclosed that they had visited the Greater Sydney area on or after 21 June," the statement read.
"The group was not permitted to leave the bus and NSW Police were called to manage the situation from this point onwards.
"In discussions prior to their arrival, Taronga had received assurances from the group that they were compliant with NSW Public Health Orders, however at the point of check in it was revealed that the group had in fact visited the Greater Sydney area."
The spokesperson said majority of guests had been compliant with current health safety orders.
"The health and safety of our animals, guests, staff and volunteers are our top priority and we are committed to maintaining these measures for as long as public safety requires us to," the statement continued.
"Taronga Western Plains Zoo has very stringent COVID compliance measures in place to ensure we can continue operating in a safe manner at this challenging time."