OPINION: Nothing that receives ratepayer money should be above scrutiny so it's fair enough that Invercargill councillor Karen Arnold should initiate an examination of the cost and relevance of the city's tuatara breeding programme.
Arnold isn't suggesting the critters be cast from the Southland Museum and Art Gallery with blows and curses. But she's suspicious about whether they should be vigorously exercising their leathery-looking loins at the ratepayer's expense.
The $13,000 budget is neither trivial nor eye-watering but the question is are we getting enough bang for our buck - although you have to suspect the real source for this purse-lipped study is whether we are getting enough bucks in return for their bangs.
We suspect the programme will withstand the inquiry just fine. It is not an indulgence.
Arnold cannot see why the city needed the breeding programme any more, given her understanding that the national tuatara population was at a stage where young'uns were "all over the show now".
But as tuatara curator Lindsay Hazley retorts, 90 per cent of the overall population is on Stephen's Island, where they are potentially susceptible to catastrophic disease. Captive management programmes are still needed, he contends.
Tuatara tend to be newsmakers, and their population upswing has been widely reported. But Hazley is adamant that they are still rare; still endangered.
This is not even a case of "it's a dirty job but someone's got to do it". By any sane consideration of their contribution to the city and the province, the museum tuatara earn their living.
People would still visit the pyramid to look at chaste tuatara, but the tiny ones are both cuter - and perhaps less inert - than the older generations.
And look, let's not forget what a triumph it was for the programme to reach this stage. Hazley used his own farm-raised background to overcome what had been a failing programme by introducing an element of masculine competition that more academic types hadn't thought of.
The result was that the museum became the national, even worldwide, home of successful captive tuatara breeding. Good for the tuarara, certainly, but also good for the province.
- The Southland Times
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