City considers new perks, greater autonomy for incoming zoo dire - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

City considers new perks, greater autonomy for incoming zoo director

(Image: Hawaii News Now) (Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now) (Image: Hawaii News Now)
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

So far this year, the Honolulu Zoo has lost its national accreditation and its director.

Now, supporters are pushing for a number of changes aimed at bolstering the Waikiki attraction. One proposal: Giving the zoo's next director new perks, including use of a Waikiki mansion. 

Last month, zoo Director Baird Fleming announced he was stepping down for a mainland position. The decision means that for the sixth time since 2009, the zoo is looking for a new director.

"We're in a tough position right now but luckily we've prepared for the future." said City Councilwoman Kymberly Pine.

In November, voters passed a charter amendment that sets ups a fund to pay for zoo expenses to assist it in regaining its accreditation.

Now, there's a bill before the council that would give the city director of Enterprise Services -- and not the City Council -- the power to set admission fees for the zoo. That measure was introduced by Pine, the Parks Committee chairwoman.

"It's so important because this comes before the counsel once a year and why should the council be in charge of zoo fees?" Pine said.

The bill is not directly tied to the November charter amendment, and doesn't mean for sure prices will rise.

But it's another effort to secure funding for the embattled zoo.

"We have so many other things that are so important that we have to decide when we have a group that knows the zoo better than us and wants to take this on and be successful at the zoo." Pine said.

Last October, Pine also introduced a measure that was passed by the council to allow commercial sponsorship of exhibits and facilities at the zoo.

"We're going to be announcing very soon the different sponsorship opportunities that businesses can do to sponsor a particular exhibit where we weren't allowed to that legally in the past," Pine said.

She said the city might also consider going back to an older model of providing the zoo director perks, like housing.

One possible option, sources say, might be for the director to live at Paki Hale across from Kapiolani Park. The city building (and former mansion) was recently renovated.

"I think we can look into all possibilities of all city land in the area." Pine said. "We need to create more perks that would allow them to want to stay and to be successful."

As for efforts to find a new zoo director, the city says it's now conducting a nationwide search.

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