Toilet use link to albatross centre fee

Use of the Te Rauone Reserve public toilets has apparently doubled since the Royal Albatross...
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

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