There could be a roar of delight from prospective visitors if a flurry of activity at the Kamo Wildlife Sanctuary means the former troubled big cat zoo could reopen soon.
Or, it could just mean Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has given the wildlife park's owners a hurry-up in meeting long laid down codes of compliance concerns.
Major rehabilitation of the park and its enclosures has been under way — at varying pace — since 2014 when it was ordered to stay closed by Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) because it didn't comply with regulations.
The park had earlier shut in 2009 after big cat handler Dalubuhle Ncube, also known as Clifford Dalu MnCube or Dalu, was mauled to death by a male tiger after he and another handler entered its enclosure. It reopened but had a patchy life until the MPI axe came down in 2014.
In 2017 the park's owners, Bolton Equities, said they would spend more than $1 million building new enclosures and upgrading existing ones, with a view to reopening in 2018. However, the gates remained shut all that year.
Builders, sparkies, landscapers and other tradies have been working at the rural site west of Whangārei recently.
MPI spokesman Alan Cook confirmed moves were being made to hasten the upgrade, although indicated it was to meet compliance timetabling.
Cook said a representative of the owners of Kamo Wildlife Sanctuary (KWS) advised MPI of their intention to complete the necessary work to operate it as an appointment-based visitor sanctuary and possibly also for the public.
''Following recent discussions, the owners have committed to an accelerated programme of work to bring the facility into full compliance,'' Cook said.
Inspections show the animals are being caged adequately and are in good health for their age, he said. No big cats have been euthanised under MPI instruction or observation during the years MPI has overseen the park.
However, in October 2017 the nearly 18-year-old lion Zion, after whom the park was originally named, died. Age-related conditions culminating in difficulty walking and excessive pain led to him being euthanised.
In 2017, the park was reported to have 27 animals - 19 lions, five tigers, two cheetahs and a leopard.
The Advocate has been unable to contact trust board chair Laurie Margrain and Janette Vallance, who manages the park with her husband Dale, said they were not permitted to talk with the media.
MPI has not made any directions in regard to KWS speaking with the media, Cook said.
Working with KWS to ensure the animals are properly locked up in accordance with biosecurity regulations has seen MPI — often both an MPI manager and a warranted inspector — visit the facility every two months for nearly 10 years.
''The visits focus on the state of repair and maintenance of enclosures to ensure containment, the welfare of animals and a review of outstanding items on the Compliance Order.
''The facility operator also provides a monthly report including animal treatments and MPI is in regular contact with the practice veterinarian who advises us of any health concern.''