Eagle vs Panda

Councillor Paul Eagle has called out Justin Wade-Lester’s business plan for pandas as a “fantasy”.

By all accounts pandas are viewed as some sort of mythical catnip for tourists with the expectation that thousands will flock to the Zoo to see them. But Eagle is saying the numbers are bollocks and that it will never stack up.

An initial “guesstimate” put the cost at $10 million, but the upcoming work would determine the exact costs and infrastructure requirements, as well as projected visitor numbers.

But Wellington City Councillor Paul Eagle said it was “fantasy stuff” to believe the council had the funds necessary to make the idea a reality. He doubted the $10m figure, saying number-crunching on a 2011 panda plan put the capital cost at $28m.

“But the 2015, 2016, 2017 figures would be $50m to $100m … If these [pandas] are so huge, would we have to close down Newtown Park, demolish that and build a car park? What’s going to happen to all the city streets, have we factored in road widening, pulling out all the car parks?”

The Prime Minister has had pandas on his radar since 2011 and pushed hard for China to bring some here. Apparently they have been an attraction in Adelaide, but locally Auckland Zoo didn’t want to wear the financial burden and Christchurch remains preoccupied with its portaloo and carparks deployment programme.

Mayor, Celia Wade-Brown, recently travelled to sister city, Beijing, and came back with a vague plan to play some soccer games between the cities, some cash for the airport and of course, pandas. So as soon as she secured her ten-speed in the WCC bike shed, the Mayor deployed her Deputy to run the pro-panda-athon.

Lester said he was not committing Wellington ratepayers to following through on the business case. Once the work was complete, the proposal would be opened for public feedback.

Even if ultimately found to be too costly, Lester saw the idea as worth exploring.

I guess you can’t put a price on the proverbial pork barrel, or should that be panda-barrel, in the lead up to Wade-Lester’s increasingly likely Mayoral run.

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