Toilet use link to albatross centre fee

Use of the Te Rauone Reserve public toilets has apparently doubled since the Royal Albatross Centre began to charge entrance fees at the start of the year. Photo by Jonathan Chilton-Towle
Use of the Te Rauone Reserve public toilets has apparently doubled since the Royal Albatross Centre began to charge entrance fees at the start of the year. Photo by Jonathan Chilton-Towle
The Te Rauone Reserve public toilets have been getting three times as much waste since the nearby Royal Albatross Centre starting charging an admission fee, potentially passing the cost of waste disposal at Taiaroa Head to the ratepayer.

The Royal Albatross Centre was once a popular comfort stop for visitors to Taiaroa Head. At the end of last year, the centre started charging entry fees to all visitors.

A major factor behind the fee was the increased cost of transporting sewage after the Dunedin City Council required the centre to send its waste to the Green Island waste disposal plant from July 2012.

Before July, the centre had been transporting its waste to the council's Tahuna wastewater treatment plant at significantly less cost but had to stop doing so due to the ongoing upgrade to the facility.

Cr Jinty MacTavish said she understood the decision to make the centre use the Green Island plant had been made at a management level, not by the elected councillors.

Not prepared to pay, large numbers of visitors have been using the Te Rauone Head toilets. Council parks and reserves manager Lisa Wheeler said that before Christmas contractors employed to refill the water tank at the toilets had to do the job once a week.

Now the contractors are having to fill the tank three times a week, using 2000 litres of water, and were also having to clean the toilets more often.

''This is beyond what we originally tendered, so we are going to have to look at renegotiating the contract,'' Ms Wheeler said.

Royal Albatross Centre manager Annie Villiers did not doubt the Te Rauone Reserve toilets were getting used more.

''I know the door charge has caused some issues with [tourism] operators and locals ... but I'm not apologising for that,'' Ms Villiers said.

''Our place has been used as public toilets forever.''

In a submission to the Otago Peninsula Community Board last year, a resident said the increased usage meant more people were parking on the road verge, which was becoming churned up.

Also, the facilities were initially inadequate for the toilets to be serviced properly, as the sewage truck had become stuck on several occasions. The board said these issues had since been resolved. Board chairman John Bellamy said the increased usage was an unavoidable consequence of the centre charging an admission fee.

''At the end of the day these things have to be paid for. The trust is a private entity and it has to meet its costs,'' he said.

- Jonathan Chilton-Towle

composting toilets used in regional parks

High standard composting toilets were built about 15 years ago at Whakanewha Regional Park on Waiheke Island and now are successfully used in many NZ regional parks.


Starting costs are about $4,000. Regular maintenance is required by someone who fully understands how they work.

Overall, DCC would  have fewer costs, fewer unpleasant problems and far greater tourist comfort by providing a number of strategically-located low-use loos, rather than a single over-used one. 


The centre is now off my visiting list

Having moved to Dunedin from Sydney 3 years ago I often host friends and family. In the past I have always visited the Albatross centre. My guests invariably bought some postcards or small souvenirs and sometimes we had coffee and cake. We could not afford the tour and usually I spent more time reading the displays than my guests. In future we will go to the lookout and bypass the centre. They sometimes pay to visit Lanarch Castle, I have a free pass if accompanied by guests. They would feel they had to pay for me to  enter the albatross centre and that would be embarrassing all round.

Powered by wind energy?

Now there's a thought.

Door fee

The article quotes Albatross Centre manager Annie Villiers as saying ''I know the door charge has caused some issues with [tourism] operators and locals ... but I'm not apologising for that''.

Maybe she should pause for reflection as the door charge has lost the centre much business and many local supporters. If the present situation continues she may have to apologise to the staff who are facing uncertain job security. Putting a turnstile between your potential customers and your services is contrary to enhancing business oportunities.

An extra dollar per year each?

Would it be such a financial burden on the fine citizens of Dunedin if we added an extra dollar to our yearly rates to allow the Albatross colony to stay open and free for everyone to enjoy?

Yes many of us (me included) haven't spent the extra money to go on a proper tour, but after an enjoyable drive down the Peninsula a quick rest stop at the centre is nice, and it sometimes leads to spending money there too with a cuppa or a snack.

I think it's in Dunedin's best interests to keep this area user friendly to encourage people to venture down here.

The alternative is a lot more money spent getting council staff or contractors to clean up toilet paper and excrement off the side of the road, as most people, myself included, refuse to pay a fee just to use the toilet.

Think about it Dunedin...if we all chipped in an extra dollar per year we could keep this place accessible to everyone.

If we can afford the Chinese Gardens and the Stadium, then surely we can afford this too!?

Makes you think, doesn't it fellow Dunedinites.

Time to go green

Time to build a nice new block of self-composting toilets. Reuse the waste in local landscaping projects, reduce fuel needed in transporting waste away from the site (and traffic emissions and the amount of heavy trucks regularly travelling on the Peninsula road). The cost to build additional loos and modify existing ones would soon be recovered by the reduction in sewage removal expenses.

If built in eco-friendly materials, what a great model to other communities this could be! Perhaps there could even be guided tours of the loos and an explanatory video, powered by solar or wind energy, to explain the system to the thousands of visitors who will inevitably visit every year! Come on DCC, do it!


Pay toilets

Just like the ones proposed for the octagon, most will find other alternatives rather than paying for toilet usage. Wake up DCC before you have the shop owners on your back when they are sick to death of washing out their entranceways every morning.

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