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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Zealandia 'a bottomless pit'

The new $17 million interactive centre at Zealandia wildlife sanctuary has failed to attract enough visitors to make it financially viable in its first year.
ZEALANDIA: Bird haven or bottomless pit for council money?It is understood the Karori Sanctuary Trust board has talked to Wellington City Council about a range of options, including the possibility of up to $700,000 in extra funding.In the December quarter alone, the sanctuary had about 8000 fewer visitors than forecast.   Read more....
Wayne wrote after reading this article:  "Think what else you could have done with 17 million dollars that could have involved getting people exercising in the outdoors instead of fostering an indoor lifestyle making more problems for peoples health.  This just cuts down the time spent outdoors where they should be at the reserve, they could have spaced more information boards around the park for people to see as they walked around for a fraction of the price instead of more architectural BS".

The Zealandia Nature Reserve is located about 1km up the hill from our home.  Before it was turned into an enclosure, our family used the area every week for runs, walks and mountain biking.  When it was proposed to be converted into a bird sanctuary, we enthusiastically supported the project, including assisting the fund raising and lobbying of officials and politicians.  It was naively assumed by us that we would have access to the area once the fencing was complete in return for our voluntary efforts to get the project up and running - and for modest ongoing donations to help with its upkeep.  How wrong we were!

Helene Ritchie is right to say the Sanctuary should be free to Wellingtonians.  Instead, we get a flash building and entry fees that makes access unaffordable for most families.

While the sanctuary has been of unquestionable benefit to Wellington's bird life, I have been deeply disappointed with the way the costs have blown out, mostly on a pointless visitor's center that has alienated so many of the sanctuary's original supporters.  It is now a massive millstone around the neck of the sanctuary.

I have not been into the sanctuary because the project failed, almost from the very beginning, to adequately acknowledge the support of the thousands of people who contributed to the project when it was first proposed and in protest at the $17 million (and rising!) wasted on the visitors center.  Many times, during its construction, I ran past the visitor's center and observed how it was blowing out in cost - Massive engineering work to stabilise the hillside that it backs onto, for example.  I wondered constantly; "How on earth was all this construction work was going to benefit the birds?"

Instead of a visitor's center, I would have been happier with a simple shelter.  I am with Wayne on this one. With $17 million it would have been possible to extend the sanctuary into surrounding countryside.  Or it could have been spent on an even more ambitious project to turn the entire Terawhiti South Coast into a stunning Regional Park.

Now, that would get my support!

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Julie said...

Hi there,

I just moved to Wellington last year, and one of the first things I did was become a member of Zealandia. It worked out to be about $45 each for myself and my husband. I thought that was a steal, considering we could go there as much as we wanted for a year! I love it there. It's peaceful, safe for walking any time of day, clean (unlike some other local tracks), and I can see rare birds & tuataras. I agree with you in one sense - the visitor centre is pretty flash and far from my favourite part (except for the cafe, which is cool) and the single entry price is pretty steep. But it doesn't put me off going or being a member.

Geoff Henry said...

Athletics supported the Sanctuary on the basis that we would run the boundary track instead of the reservoir tracks. (The "Gutbuster" is a direct result). The Mountain bikers also get good use and we avoid the runner/biker conflicts which we get on "green belt" walkways.
My family have let our Zealandia memberships lapse, however, because the pricing has become just too expensive.
We wanted to support birds and trees, not buildings and souvenir shops.

Geoff Henry

Gary Moller said...

Thanks for the comments Julie and Geoff.

The Sanctuary has been a fantastic success for the native species of Wellington and I want to emphasise this.

As an original supporter, I do feel rather let down that cost blow outs have happened through expenditure on what appears to be unnecessary items that have led to high entry fees and possible hindrance of future conservation developments.

With regards to the visitor's center, this was highly controversial from the outset and the costs blew out big time from day one. This center has proven to be divisive from the beginning and should never have gone ahead, simply on the basis that it was alienating many of the sanctuary's supporters..