Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Perhaps a Penguin Paradise?

Marineland proposal: Dolphins out, penguins in

The Dominion Post (NZ) | Wednesday, 08 October 2008

A penguin paradise and a $4 million makeover are being put forward as ways of saving Napier's Marineland.

The two ideas are revealed in information published today as part of Napier City Council's process of consulting the public on the future of the zoo.

It closed to the public last month after the death of its last dolphin, Kelly.

Featuring penguins as the main attraction - to replace the performing dolphins - is a new idea from Marineland manager Gary Macdonald.

The makeover, expected to cost at least $4 million, is a concept researched by Wellington firm 3D Creative.

Mr Macdonald presented his penguin idea at a council seminar in August. "In the world of the oceans there are three species of animals that truly capture the imagination: cetaceans (whales and dolphins), sharks and penguins," he said.

Penguins were extremely popular in zoos around the world, and at the Christchurch Antarctic Centre.

Marineland made $33,000 in the past year just from photo sales of people posing with penguins. They were more popular than photos with dolphins.

Marineland houses little blue penguins and white-flippered penguins now, but Mr Macdonald envisages bringing in other, larger species. Ten of the world's 18 penguin species are found in or near New Zealand. "To have the birds visible through underwater windows as well as above ground in modern, well-designed displays would be a major plus," he said. Visitors could also swim with the penguins.

Several of the documents in the council files mention that Marineland is looking tired and out-of-date. Apart from the addition of the grandstand, it is virtually the same as it was when it opened more than 40 years ago.

The 3D Creative concept uses most of the existing infrastructure but transforms the flat, concreted area into a natural-looking landscape with rocks and plants.

Managing director Craig Turvey, who was a senior designer at Te Papa, estimated that this could be done, and modern information presentations added, for about $4 million. Some of the money could come from government agencies such as Niwa that wanted to present research and information to the public, he said.

Mr Turvey was confident that a modernised Marineland would attract enough visitors to make it viable. "It's got a brand you couldn't buy," he said.

"There is a romantic attachment to the brand. It's in an ideal location on Marine Pde. It would appeal to families and to schools - it has the potential to appeal to practically everyone."

Marineland could continue to have displays by seals and sea lions, and a theatre could be built under the grandstand - possibly with a moving taniwha to illustrate Maori legends, he said.

Story courtesy of The Dominion Post @

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