"We are really excited funding has been approved," he said. "The Penguin Colony is one of the most recognisable tourist attractions in Oamaru - between 70,000 and 75,000 people visit the colony each year. The funding and subsequent expansion will make sure the facility is able to accommodate the people that are coming to visit."
Funds would be used to expand the building, upgrade the inside and give it a refresh as well, as install a new toilet block, he said. "The building was originally opened in 1992 and had some work done over a few years. Some major work was done to the property in 2010 and 2011. We had a new habitat put in and a new, smaller grandstand was built," Gaskill said. "We always thought we would next turn our attention to the interior." He said they intended to use the funding to expand the visitor centre and improve the way in which people could interact with the penguins to make it "more of an experience."
One idea is to make the centre more research-focused, as well as creating a space for children.
Gaskill said the carpark, which the colony shares with surrounding businesses, would not be upgraded or expanded as yet, though it is still being discussed. "Conversations around the carpark are ongoing. Our current focus is on the building."
Tourism Waitaki and the Waitaki District Council were currently working on final plans and there no time frame has been set as yet for the expansion and upgrade to commence, he said. The Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony is open daily all year round from 10am and closes several hours after sunset.