KIM DE LEIJER
It will be the end of an era for Marineland when it closes its doors next Sunday - for what could be the last time.
The marine zoo and hospital will close to the public on April 26 following a decision by the Napier City Council in December.
Councillors had allowed the Marine Parade icon to reopen over summer on the basis of no shows and a reduced entry fee. It was to close at the end of the April school holidays this year.
Friends of Marineland has organised an open afternoon with free entry to tie in with Sunday's closure. Chairman Cliff Church said there would be training presentations, displays and competitions to celebrate Marineland's rich history.
``It's an opportunity for Napier people and anyone who has been associated and supported Marineland to come along and celebrate Marineland and its history since 1964,' he said.
Mr Church said there was still strong public interest in Marineland, as shown during the consultation stage.
``We had more than 2000 letters of support ... This is just the final way of saying goodbye to what was Marineland.'
The future of Marineland remains up in the air, with council staff investigating a possible site redevelopment.
Mr Church said there was ``always the risk' that Sunday could mean a permanent closure for Marineland.
``The final decision hasn't been made,' he said.
``But I'm pretty confident that the council has realised after the submission process that this [redevelopment] needs to go ahead. I think they've realised there is a place for Marineland in Napier.'
Marineland submissions committee chairwoman, Kathie Fur long, said council had an ``open mind' on the matter.
``The council are waiting to hear the outcome of the mana gers' investigation and we'll make a move then,' she said.
``If they can find something that's financially viable and has got the `wow factor', we'll consider it.'
But Mrs Furlong cautioned that no decision had been made either way, adding the council was not expecting a report back until midway through the year.
``It [the open afternoon] might be the last opportunity for people to go and have a look at the animals.'
Mr Church said Friends of Marineland were still positive.
``We're supporting the Marineland staff, we're support ing the council and we're supporting the people of Napier in getting Marineland redeveloped.'