Marineland lobbyists call for support

By Doug Laing

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Plans to rebuild the image of Napier's Marine Parade as a mecca for families, holidaymakers and tourists have not dampened the resolve of Marineland supporters who want marine animals to feature in the site's redevelopment.

The Napier City Council's Big Picture plans include the public-private development of a cable ski concept and other adventure tourism activity, Mayor Barbara Arnott announced yesterday.

Established in the 1960s as a performing dolphins spectacle attracting hundreds of thousands of holidaymakers to Napier, Marineland closed to the public after the death of the last-surviving dolphin Kelly in September 2008.

A decision on the permanent closure came two years later when the Minister of Conservation reaffirmed he would not permit the keeping of marine mammals in captivity.

Remaining animals have been tended by staff on-site, but education programmes shifted to the National Aquarium, also on Marine Parade, at the start of this year, and blue penguins from Marineland are to be housed at the aquarium in a newly-built enclosure opening in November.

Lobby group Friends of Marineland battled unsuccessfully in the High Court to have Marineland maintained as an animal sanctuary.

Friends spokesperson Emily Otto had an "Oh, please No!" response when first reading of the cable ski concept, and the possibility of the site being taken over by water skiers and wake-boarders.

But, realising it's "only an idea at this stage" she wants supporters to let the council know how they feel.

"Now more than ever, Marineland needs your support," she said.

"While this is still only an idea at this stage, in short, it looks like it involves demolishing the current site, getting rid of all the marine animals and turning the whole area into an artificial lake for thrill-seekers on water skis or wakeboards attached to a cable overhead."

"This would not be something for all ages to enjoy and is not something which promotes marine conservation or raises awareness about our precious marine life," she said.

"If you like the Friends of Marineland's proposal for an education-focused marine animal sanctuary (including a marine animals hospital) then please, tell the Napier City Council."

Businessman and Friends supporter Rodney Green, whose hotel interests include the Quality Inn opposite Marineland, lauded the council plans which also propose a second big-money item - a wave park towards the northern end of the Parade.

Other proposed ideas include a range of mainly free activities and open areas, some already existing and others including a junior bike track, a BMX jump park, a pier and other work, all in the approved or planning stages.

"It's a wonderful step forward, well overdue," Mr Green said. "The ideas are very, very good.

"But I still feel not enough was done to keep Marineland as a sea-life park, without [performing] dolphins."

Generally, the proposals were being well received yesterday, with some relief after delays in setting a path for the future.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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