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:
- Marine Parade no longer has the number of family tourist attractions it used to; and,
- 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.
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 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 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.
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.