A weekly ode to the joys of moaning about your holidays.

We tell tourists to go to Western Springs. We shouldn't. It's a shame because my childhood memories of walking around Western Springs, even doing school orienteering there, are fond. But the elephant in the room is in fact a bird; thousands upon thousands of them.

Western Springs is a modern-day Hitchcockian nightmare, overrun with swans and pigeons and aggressive geese and pūkeko. The place is teeming with so many birds of misplaced confidence as to make any visit there a gauntlet run of such trauma you have to pretend you're having fun.

Or not. Just to be clear, this is Western Springs the parklands we're talking about and not the legendary outdoor stadium of the same name that sits right next door. The stadium I love and the more concerts there the better. The sooner it gets converted into a specialised cricket arena the better, too. But Western Springs the parklands have such a hideous, mostly non-native bird overpopulation problem that unless there is a cull, it's in danger of becoming a no-go zone. Just try having a picnic there ...


As an animal lover, I hate the idea of a cull, but it also bugs me that this terrific central city pocket of greenery has become so unpleasant that in a kauri-dieback world, it's yet another place I can't go walking. Perhaps there's a solution, one I'm sure won't be uniformly popular, but one that would be brilliant for tourism as well as, I would argue, locals. And not to be overlooked, animals too.

Expand the zoo. Double its size by letting it take over most of the much bigger (and adjoining) Western Springs parklands. If you're not an Aucklander, the parklands are sandwiched between the zoo and the stadium.

Forward-thinking establishments around the world are looking to follow the Singapore Zoo and Night Safari models of huge, natural-looking, near-cageless enclosures; Auckland Zoo is short on space. It's a very nice zoo and one that's getting better with each passing year, but there's only so much it can do if it can't increase its size.

The cons are obvious: the public would no longer have free access to the parklands. But the pros? Those pros are spectacular. New Zealand could be home to one of the largest, most lush and most flat-out stunning urban zoos on the planet. In a country that both prides and brands itself on its conservation ethos, here would be a zoo of such magnitude, attractiveness and density of trees as to be internationally recognised.

How cool would it be exploring that bush on the hill, keeping your eyes peeled for tigers who'd finally have the room to roam that they always deserved? Or that they once had.

Also on this side of the argument is that the whole thing of swallowing up chunks of Western Springs has been done before, though not since 1973 when the zoo nabbed an extra 4.9ha to take its total to 16.35. The parklands were reduced to what they are now, 25.9ha. When you see those numbers side by side, surely it doesn't stand to reason that it's the place drowning in avian effluent that has 61.3 per cent of the total zoo plus parklands land area, the poor zoo battling away on 38.7 per cent.

So yes, there'd either have to be a cull or a relocation of those dang birds, but the trade-off would be dozens of more precious animals, many of which may increasingly need good zoos for their very survival.

Let's make this happen.


Tim Roxborogh hosts Newstalk ZB's Weekend Collective and blogs at RoxboroghReport.com.