Natureland decision due early next year

The Nelson City Council is working with two parties interested in taking over Natureland at Tahunanui, with a final decision not expected until early next year.

In the meantime, the zoo would remain open as normal throughout the summer holiday period, council acting executive manager of community services Roger Ball said.

He said the council would be asking for more detail from two of the three parties that submitted expressions of interest in the future management of Natureland.

The Christchurch-based Orana Wildlife Trust, which has run Natureland since 2008, announced in June that it was pulling out as a result of hardship suffered in the wake of the Canterbury earthquakes.

It was the second time in four years that council-owned Natureland had faced a crisis over its future.

The council said in June it would try to find another operator for the beleaguered zoo, or find an alternative use for the site.

Because it is on council reserve land, use of the area has to meet the requirements of the Nelson Resource Management Plan.

There has been huge public opposition to plans in the past to close Natureland, which has about 400 animals.

Its annual running costs range between $400,000 to $500,000, funded by gate takings, the council and the Orana trust.

Mr Ball said the two parties interested in taking over Natureland had been asked to provide detailed proposals for the management of the facility by January 30.

"These will then be assessed, and the aim is to have an arrangement in place with a new operator within the first quarter of 2013."

Mr Ball said the Orana trust had confirmed it would continue to operate Natureland until then.