$5 entry fee to Albatross Centre slammed

A Dunedin wildlife tour-operator has slammed a decision to introduce a $5 entry charge at Otago Peninsula's Royal Albatross Centre, including for the use of toilets, saying it has led to ill-feeling among the city's tour operators.

People will be charged for entering the Taiaroa Head facility, which includes a display, gallery, cafe and toilets when the centre reopens after two months of refurbishing on October 1.

Elm Wildlife Tours general manager Brian Templeton said the decision to introduce the charge had led to ill-feeling among Dunedin tour operators who took tourists to the popular spot.

Tour-operators did not want to be in a position where their customers were forced pay $5 to use the toilet facilities, Mr Templeton said.

Until now, the toilets at the centre had acted as "de-facto public toilets" for people who visited Taiaroa Head, he said.

The decision was also a "foolish business strategy" which would put off potential customers and result in a loss in earnings for the centre.

He was also critical of a lack of consultation before the decision was made, saying it threatened the centre's relationship with tour operators, which was important for both parties.

Royal Albatross Centre manager Annie Villiers said the decision was largely made to recoup the costs of disposing of sewage, which had to be carted to Green Island at "huge cost" to the Otago Peninsula Trust, which runs the centre.

"Any money that goes into carting water in and carting sewage out is money that's lost to other projects on the peninsula," Ms Villiers said She said $5 was not an "unreasonable" charge and did not believe it would result in the centre bringing in less money.

"I don't doubt that the numbers may well be fewer through the door, but I believe that ... for the people that are there it will be a better and more meaningful experience."

Asked about a lack of consultation, she said: "They [tour-operators] make their decisions based on their business and we make our business decisions based on ours."

Dunedin residents would be able to visit for free on "locals' days", which would be held on the first Sunday of every month.

Awesome Tours owner/operator Mark Dixon said charging $5 for entry was "ludicrous" and, as a result, he would no longer take people who did not pay for a full tour to the centre.

It was likely other tour operators would follow his example, he said.

"I don't think people will pay $5 to go in and look at static displays."

Otago Peninsula Community Board chairman John Bellamy said the council needed to step in and either help fund the cost of the toilets at the centre or install toilets themselves.

"You can't open a place up and advertise it to tourists and then not supply them with the facility they need."

Cr Andrew Noone said any decision on whether the council installed toilets would need to be part of a wider review of toilet facilities across the city.

vaughan.elder@odt.co.nz

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