Zealandia bosses need to focus on the bird sanctuary being a place for people and birds to visit, according to staff member Allison McPherson.
In a September 10, 2013 email to Zealandia's marketing manager Peter Laurenson the head of education and guides said the facility needed to rid itself of the perception that it was too expensive to visit.
Patrons should pay just a single fee entry to visit both the sanctuary and the exhibition centre, she wrote, without saying what that fee should be.
Entry tickets to Zealandia's sanctuary valley walk near the Karori tunnel are $18.50 for adults who also pay an extra $10 ($28.50 total) if they wish to visit the exhibition centre.
Entry fees for children are $9 with an additional $5.50 fee to visit the exhibition centre ($14.50 total). A family pass for both the exhibition and sanctuary is $71.50.
Ms McPherson told Mr Laurenson the sanctuary needed to lower its entry prices so that everyone with a valley walk ticket could also visit the exhibition centre for the one price.
Mr Laurenson said Ms McPherson's email views had to be seen in context.
They followed recent comments by Wellington mayor Celia Wade-Brown confirming "absolutely, definitely'' entry prices at Zealandia should be reduced.
Mr Laurenson said Ms McPherson's comments reflected the fact Zealandia needed local support.
He anticipated a new entry and membership fee structure would be unveiled early next month.
''When we do make an adjustment we need to make sure we get it right.
He said Ms McPherson's comments reflected a perception held ''by some'' that Zealandia's current entrance entry fee and membership fee structure was too high.
Her suggestion of charging one price for exhibition centre and sanctuary visits was just one proposition involving the new fee paying structure.
''This exercise is about getting people through the gates. We need to win the hearts and minds of local people,'' Mr Laurenson said.
The Wellington City Council learned late last month how the sanctuary once again had failed to meet visitor targets in the past financial year, despite halving its expectations.
The visitor number fall was the latest in a series of problems for Zealandia.
Low visitor numbers have seen it battle with the books since it opened in April 2010, forcing ratepayers to prop it up.
The latest 5.9 per cent fall took visitor numbers to 82,749 for the financial year. The target had been lowered to 87,897 - matching the number of actual visitors the previous year.
That was despite expectations being lowered after it was realised that planned visitor numbers that formed the business case for the $16 million visitor centre - targeted to reach about 175,000 last year - were well off-base.
The lower-than-expected funding prompted the Wellington City Council to sign off on extra funding, with the latest this year seeing an extra $350,000 of funding for Zealandia in 2013-14 and 2014-15.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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