Zealandia gets further funding with conditions

KATIE CHAPMAN
Last updated 08:56 14/12/2012

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Zealandia will get extra funding - so long as the public agrees.

Wellington city councillors have labelled the wildlife sanctuary too precious to lose, the strategy and policy committee unanimously agreeing yesterday to support $350,000 extra funding for the Karori Sanctuary Trust over the next two years.

But, rather than definitely including the funding in the next annual plan, they agreed to consult the public during the annual plan process, after councillor Leonie Gill raised concerns the funding would sit ahead of every other projectn.

The extra money takes the organisation's funding to $2.1 million over three years - the amount Zealandia had requested in the long-term plan adopted earlier this year.

Wellington City Council opted for a reduced amount after questioning the robustness of Zealandia's finances, and appointed an interim board to review the cash-strapped organisation. Zealandia has had fewer than expected visitors since its $16m visitor centre opened, meaning it had failed to become self-sustaining.

The interim board has found that the $2.1m request was realistic, and without it the organisation would be left without any cash reserves.

With the funding, the sanctuary trust would be in a position to attract other sponsors and improve its financial position, interim board chairman Kevin Brady told councillors this week.

Yesterday, councillors said the conservation value the project brought to the city meant they had to commit to the funding.

Helene Ritchie said voting against the funding would be the end of Zealandia.

Mayor Celia Wade-Brown said other attractions received ratepayer support, so it was appropriate that Zealandia should too.

"We don't expect the zoo not to cost the city money, we don't expect the Botanic Gardens not to cost the city money . . . they cost money and they bring benefits."

Mr Brady welcomed the council's decision, labelling it a victory despite the proviso about consultation because it would be included in the annual plan.

"That's as good as given it to us as far as I'm concerned . . . We have got our future assured."

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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