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.
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....
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!