Shark mural could tank

Jono More, conservationist and artist, with his first basking shark creation, on the water tank at Kaikoura lookout 2009
Jono More, conservationist and artist, with his first basking shark creation, on the water tank at Kaikoura lookout 2009

To bask or not to bask?

That was the question raised at the first tourism and development committee meeting of the year.

Kaikoura district councillor Geoff Harmon informed the committee that he had received a letter from tourism operators who continued to be concerned over the presence of a large basking shark in the mural on the water tank lookout off Scarborough street.

The basking shark mural was painted in June 2009 by conservationist and artist Jono More. At the time, a number of tourism operators felt it was detrimental to their businesses because it could scare away their customers.

In 2009 a group of operators approached council to ask them to reconsider the mural of the six metre plankton-eating shark.

They said many visitors to the lookout would not be able to make the distinction between that and any other species of shark. They felt that people would see the shark and be put off water-based activities such as swimming with dolphins and seals.

However after consideration, the then-council decided to keep the shark, six votes to two.

At the time, council chief executive Stuart Grant recommended to councillors that they could reconsider a request to remove the shark if the businesses opposed could demonstrate that it was impacting on their operations in a negative way.

With the issue raised again, Mayor Winston Gray said he thought the shark was inappropriate. He suggested the mural could be redesigned and painted over at the tourism operators' cost.

Councillor John Macphail advised the operators had been offered the opportunity to have the shark painted over at their cost after initial objections were made, but they refused.

"It wasn't put there to upset operators. Basking sharks used to be common in Kaikoura so they do have a history here," Mr MacPhail said. He said it would "open a can of worms" if discussion was opened on the topic at full council.

Committee member Kauahi Ngapora said while the artist was passionate about basking sharks and highlighting the plight of endangered marine species, other endangered animals such as the southern right whale or Hector's dolphin may have been more appropriate.

The committee recommended to full council that the issue be re-addressed and council possibly look at removal of the shark.

Kaikoura Star