Judge reserves Marineland decision

By Doug Laing

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A High Court judge has reserved a decision in a judicial review which could force the Napier City Council to repeat the Marineland future consultation it completed more than three years ago.

At the end of a hearing scheduled to run for two days but completed within five hours, Justice Jillian Mallon said she hoped her decision would be available in the next few weeks.

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The review came about through an application by the Friends of Marineland New Zealand Inc, challenging the process by which the council closed the Marine Parade tourism icon to the public in 2009.

The society, through counsel Philip Ross, alleged a closed-door council decision in 2001 predetermined the outcome of public consultation more than seven years later.

Up against Government opposition to holding of dolphins in captivity, Marineland's closure to the public was projected for after the death of either of the two remaining dolphins, Shona and Kelly.

Mr Ross said the decision was not made public, and was not even known to long-serving staff until Shona, a veteran of 32 years at Marineland, died in 2006.

The park was, however, not closed until after Kelly died in September 2008, pursuant to another resolution passed by the council two months earlier.

The resolution allowed for redevelopment options to be canvassed with the public, which didn't start until after the closure which was followed by a short summer reopening without the dolphin performers.

The hearing was able to be shortened after city counsel Matthew Lawson decided against cross-examining four Friends of Marineland witnesses whose evidence was contained in affidavits.

Council CEO Neil Taylor answered question for about 15 minutes, having presented three hefty files of documentation.

He confirmed that the council in 2001 adopted a recommendation from a working party, and agreed it was a decision to close.

Mr Lawson said the consultation, which eventually did take place, was pursuant to legislation which didn't come into effect until 2002.

Marineland was Napier's premier tourism attraction from its opening in 1965, with 4.5 million visitsduring its 43 years, peaking at more than 200,000 a year.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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