Here’s a guest article from our regular weekend columnist, Andrew Frame. Apparently he’s so worked up about the Napier Council that he couldn’t wait till Saturday!


Pandaland or Wasteland?
By Andrew Frame

Max Patmoy’s idea to put Pandas in Marineland was out there.

Way out there, beyond optimal panda swimming depth. Realistically, it never had much of a chance to succeed. Even so, his idea did make it to national television on “Campbell Live”. While it looked like a “slow news day” item, it did show two things:

  1. Marine Parade no longer has the number of family tourist attractions it used to; and,
  2. Max has had at least one more idea than the current Napier City Council on the matter.

Mayor Barbara spoke briefly in the segment, giving a Council viewpoint on how they think: “We need another attraction along Marine Parade”. Then why has so little been done? In fact, over previous years, the number of things to see and do along Marine Parade has actually decreased.

The Highlights:

Ocean Spa. Built in 2003 it is a huge leap forward from the old Swann Memorial paddling pool it replaced at the northern end of the Parade. Heated pools and a gym provide locals and visitors a health sanctuary with a stunning sea view. The War Memorial Centre next door is also a great improvement from its old rotunda format and hosts a number of events and conferences each year.

The Aquarium. As a result of the recent closure of Marineland and the Can-am Cars/Bumper-boat attraction closing down many years go, the Aquarium is now essentially isolated at the southern end of Marine Parade. It does provide a highlight to the end of any tour of the parade. The long overdue upgrade brought it back into focus as a modern environmental attraction.

The Lowlights:

The Soundshell (in the “Campbell Live” segment, being used by Napier’s resident loudspeaker and bugle-toting evangelist) is massively under-utilised. Barring evangelism and the odd skate-boarding – or just plain bored – teenager, so little happens at this most central and scenic site. It was built for such a purpose, so why does it get ignored? This whole area could be absolutely pumping day and night with music, people and activities – our very own “Party Central” for the 2011 Rugby World Cup. But where are the events?

Only recently have the council considered re-surfacing the Soundshell/Sunbay’s forecourt at the behest of the Art Deco Trust (so now they MUST do it, I guess) to make it more level and return the paving shapes and colours to their former glory. I have seen a picture of my mother and her brother roller-skating there in the 1950’s, before cracking, movement and Norfolk Pine roots made skating (and walking, in some places) an issue best investigated by ACC.

Marineland is dead, long live Marineland! Napier’s previously premiere tourist attraction died on this council’s watch. It was losing money through dwindling visitor numbers, investment and attention, so it was closed to the public and now makes no money at all. I’m still unsure of this thought process, as I’m sure members of the public and visitors would be more than willing to part with their money (not the full former entry fee, necessarily) to see the remaining seals and penguins up close and learn about the wildlife recovery programmes Marineland still runs. It would at the very least help subsidise operations.

The Council has been mulling over possible uses for the remains of Napier’s king of family attractions for some time now without anything solid progressing. Max’s idea has been the only concept to get any major media airtime.

Grass! Between the playground and Danish Delight ice cream hut that neighbour Marineland, there is the millennial artwork that also featured in the “Campbell Live” item and then just … um… grass for half a kilometre. Usually green, sometimes yellow-brown and very occasionally hosting a gypsy fair or sideshow, the space is usually deserted … and not very appealing to tourists unless they’re a hirsute quadruped named Eunis who likes to say “Baa” a lot.

Before it became a touring sheep’s paradise, this space used to be the “Can-am Cars” go-cart track, bumper boats pool and a large dog-boned boating lake. This was a great summer oasis for families and very popular. But during the mid 90’s the site lost its popularity, fell into disrepair and the entire site was shut down.

The bumper-boat pool was used to house the larger fish during the Aquarium’s upgrade, after which, it and the boating lake were torn up and filled in. Nothing has replaced or has been planned for the site, except for an unrealised grand water feature to accompany the aquarium. The number of hotels/motels that sprung up in the meantime offering sea views would doubtlessly quash any opportunity to return this area to any major use.

The Indifferent:

The Pathway running between the parade and the sea does provide a wide, flat walking and cycling route with a nice view. Compared to the Marineland, which was in its last stages of decline while the pathway was under construction, it was lavished with council and media attention.

But who would come to Napier just to walk a fancy footpath? It’s hardly the Great Wall of China or Milford Track – more a reward for tourists and locals than a tourist attraction.

Iconic Napier:

The Tom Parker Fountain, Pania of the Reef, Flower Clock, Sun-dial and Sunken Gardens and Veronica Sun-bay remain as they always have – pretty, lasting and iconic Napier.

We’ll never see or expect a Disneyland or its like in Napier, as destinations as a whole become more of the focus. But isn’t it sad to see Napier’s tourist strip go largely ignored and regress? If it felt like the attractions there were stuck in the 80’s, its simply because that was the last time Marine Parade was given any major attention or fresh ideas.

Good on Max for coming up with something. It shows what a member of the public can do with initiative. Now if we could just get the Napier City Council to do the same, or listen to those who do.

Join the Conversation


  1. about 15 years ago practically no tourist buses etc routed through hawkes bay as there was little to see or do unless you got off on looking at thousands of vacant gannets on the cape.

    then graeme avery from sileni, kim thorpe, andy coltart and few other switched on cookies got into play with wine country, black barn etc and local pride and tourism spin took off..for a while.

    but then it got tired again and now we seem to be reduced to trying to conjure up something from the fact that we have an ocean spa, pania, poor old arthur deco and a whole lot of other tiresome stuff that's been around since the 50's for which people came to the Bay to collect a commerative teaspoon…or teatowel!


    max patmoy is to be congratulated for being so off the wall as suggesting pandas but even john key is having probs. right now getting them for the AK Zoo.

    hawkes is tired…of itself!

  2. I propose a youth venue with family-friendly activities included be used at the Marineland site – no more caging creatures! Our young people need their own cultural space with all the social, educational & developmental supports & safety that Napier used to have in The State Of It.

  3. Well I love the open space and wild feel the grass expanse has along marine parade, the wild flowers were great for a while. Do we have to fill every gap with another eyesore entertainment building.The vista of sea view as you drive down marine parade should be enjoyed not blocked out.The cycleway is wonderful and partly because of the openess of the area.

    This space is great for Fairs and functions,maybe could be used more.Perhaps more landscaped.

    The soundshell is definately under used and deserves alot more entertainment, and TLC.It should be enhanced to improve our wonderful Art Deco Tourist Attraction.Why do we need more, Napier is beautiful as it is.

    And sorry…..Pandas by the sea?? Doesn't fit with me.

    I have felt for a long time Napier needs a decent cafe overlooking the sea, perhaps near the playground. Then we could all sit with a Latte and enjoy the open seascape.

  4. A youth/family venue WOULD have a cafe, with a view – the best playground on the town side of the Hill is right there too. It should be about families having a decent space – including the intermediate & high school aged that we're relying on for our future. :)

    Private operators (ie, cafe, activities) can only operate on the sea-side of the Parade in partnership with Napier City Council or under their auspices. The land is permanent reserve, ie, protected from big business developers ever building-out Napier citizens' most precious natural strip of land.

  5. To Michelle and all those other misguided people who are posting comments and support on Tom's candidacy. You should realise that this is political promotion, and as such, the cost of this web site immediately becomes a cost of his election campaign. The amount he can spend is limited by law. I suggest that if you wish to support him, you do so through his personal e-mail and not incur him in expense he would prefer to spend in other ways.

    You will recognise this web site is not cheap to maintain, and you are using it on his political campaign.

    To Tom, I suggest you remove these endorsements very quickly, as the clock is ticking.

    Philip M Ward

  6. To Michelle You do realise that this is political propoganda in your campaign for election. You should realise that this is political promotion, and as such, the cost of this web site immediately becomes a cost of your election campaign. The amount you can spend is limited by law.

    You will recognise this web site is not cheap to maintain, and you are using it on your political campaign.

    To Tom, I suggest you remove these promotional statements very quickly, for her sake, as the clock is ticking.

    Philip M Ward

  7. Thanks for your concern Philip. I'm happy for Tom to bill me so I can include this in my election costs & after the election it will be transparently seen on my total election costs statement.

  8. Greetings from the UK. Time for a change! Sadly I see where the local election scene appears to have kicked off with a lot of time “wasting” nit picking. Mayor Arnott & her “compliant” cohorts must be tickled pink that some of YOU appear far more intent on savaging one another, than working towards the common goal of getting rid of the presently EXPIRED “Use by Date” Arnott/ Yule brigade.

    Go Michelle-you got our vote.


  9. To a not very intelligent Philip M Ward.

    Please note that this is a story about Pandaland and the use of Napier’s Marineland.

    Go flame Tom Belford somewhere else. Have you ever heard of freedom of the press? This is the same as freedom of the press, sheesh.

    If you dislike Tom Belford just lay your cards on the table, better still run yourself? Why not just sent letters to the local newspaper and stay away from online chat.

    Tom is more that welcome to say whatever he likes on my website as often as he likes.

    You see some people wish to hear from their candidates.

  10. Dear Rob,

    Thanks for your kind thoughts.

    Indeed Napier is tired. Hastings isn't though. Napier is a city tired of trying to instill something to bring a itself back to life.

    Napier Council has been trying for two years to come up with an idea for Marineland. It costs the Council $600,000.00 a year to keep it closed! ( Dominion 20/7/10) That’s $10,000.00 to keep the doors shut!

    Whilst Hastings has received two huge grants (care of Venture Hawke’s Bay) for cycle ways Napier got nothing. Seems like the only thing Napier is going for is an $18,000,000.00 (yes that’s million) museum that will cost a huge amount to keep going every year. And it will be run by someone who hates Art Deco. I do hope he likes his two year rest while they demolish or move iconic buildings for a garish and ill placed edifice that is just a mausoleum to the current old council. Thats why the rates went up. Just imagine two cycle ways connected to Napier’s Rotary Pathway….. too bad.

    Rest assured Rob, Pandaland is very very possible. It just needs a few important people to support it. People like councilors!

  11. Reply Michelle Pyke-next Mayor of Napier?

    Well well well a youth venue with family-friendly activities and a café. Grant idea. Who really thinks that all the at risk, violent, vandalizing, thieving youths will go there?

    No Michelle, only the nice kids will go there, at least during opening hours. Like they have to all the other venues opened for them.

    The way to educate the rest is to start off with a go ahead, dynamic, prosperous town.

    Isn’t is a long time since the words prosperous and Napier were in the same sentence?

    So Michelle you would release all the marine animals currently in Marine land into the ocean? No where else for them it’s the only zoo of its type in New Zealand. Then you would fire the seven full time staff? Then knock over the 1,000 seat stand?

    Then you would build a youth venue, how much would that cost? How expensive would the overheads be? What about security guards at night? see the Council's problem?

    I like the idea of a youth centre, don’t get me wrong. Good idea but wrong place.

    You would deprive Napier of a truly international tourist facility in Panderland.

  12. Michelle Pyke-next Mayor of Napier

    Bad manners to electioneer in another person's blog. Feel free to advertise on my website.

    $10 a word for you seeing that you are happy to pay.

  13. Reply to David Bosley

    Dear David I agree 100%. Shame there isn’t as much interest in the Napier elections as there is in the Hastings elections.

    I guess you get the City Council you deserve?

  14. If you were all serious about stimulating the local economy and making Napier prosperous, you would support my idea of turning Marineland into Mermaidland. The stadium would be full Thurs-Sat nights. Napier could have something that not only pays for itself but provides funding for its marine animal hospital.

    Now for the serious part. I think the motivations behind wanting a youth centre are admirable. But as someone only a few years out of my teens, I think it is a poor use of ratepayer's money. Pizza nights in Napier CBD for Napier Hill kids at the ratepayer's expense? No thanks.

    Good on the NCC for its low rate increase. But it should be remembered that not everyone's income increased by the same percentage.

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