TOP STORY: Seahorse shock as jobs go at Awatoro attraction

LUCY CRAYMER
Nine people have lost their jobs because one of Hawke's Bay most popular attractions, the Seahorse Farm at Awatoto, has closed its doors.
Staff at the Seahorse farm were told last week that the business would close after Auckland owner Allan Tattersfield decided to withdraw his financial stake in it.
The attraction shut its doors on Sunday and staff have started the grim business of packing up and selling off the stock of seahorses, rock lobster, whitebait and crabs.
Manager Blair Gray said the business had been doing extremely well and around 20,000 tourists had gone through the plant last year. He believed if more money had been invested, visitor numbers could have been tripled.
Along with being a tourist attraction, the farm bred seahorses for aquariums and medicines and supplied crabs, whitebait and lobster to restaurants.
Mr Gray said before the farm finally closed it would dispose of the stock by selling it at discounted prices to petshops, aquariums and restaurants throughout New Zealand.
He would hold onto the farm's breeding pairs until the other stock was gone in case the business was sold and a new owner decided to reopen it.
"It is not a huge amount of money needed to keep it open," he added.
Hawke's Bay Incorporated's head of marketing, Aaron Hing, said the closure of the Seahorse Farm was a huge loss to Hawke's Bay.
"It is one of the things that diversifies Hawke's Bay and makes it attractive to tourists," he said.
It was particularly disappointing considering Hawke's Bay's tourist industry was doing so well at the moment, Mr Hing said.
"In 2005 it was growing at double the rate of the New Zealand average tourist number so it is sad to hear of the closure," he said.
Mr Hing said he hoped someone would see the potential in it and purchase it.
Mr Tattersfield refused to make any comment on his decision to close the farm or the number of redundancies.
Napier City Council chief executive Neil Taylor said the council was always disappointed when a business closed down and was concerned for those who would lose their jobs.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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