The Marine Discovery Centre at Bondi Pavilion has closed after almost five years in operation.
As a not-for-profit organisation, the centre was introduced in 2002 to educate people about the diversity of ocean life surrounding Sydney’s eastern beaches.
Over the past 11 years, the venue catered for school excursions with up to 30,000 children. Since 2009, it has operated as fully-fledged organisation with a dedicated space at Bondi Pavilion, allowing visitors to experience a replica of a Bondi dive site, and providing education on the value of protecting the ocean.
Will Jones, the centre’s Managing Director, said rising administration costs and declining visitor numbers caused the centre’s closure.
“We were getting about 6-7,000 visitors a year, which just wasn’t sustainable,” he said.
Mr Jones said although the venue had 1,200 paying members, their support was not enough to keep the centre sustainable, despite a rent subsidy from Waverley Council.
“The support from Council was extremely generous, but it still wasn’t enough to make ends meet,” he said.
“The good news is that Council still wants to us to [proceed] with the school excursion program.”
Waverley Mayor Sally Betts said by continuing to support the work of the centre, Council will meet its obligations under its Environmental Action Plan to provide education on environmental issues.
“We’ve got some very high targets for our environment,” she said. “We will continue the school programs, and if there are programs of value, Council might just pick up those programs themselves and run them.”
With the space occupied by the centre now vacant, Council has put out a tender for a three-month lease of the venue. This will be reviewed next year, when it is hoped a permanent tenant is found. Waverley councillors will be briefed on the applications at the next Council meeting.
Lenore Kulakauskas from Friends of Bondi Pavilion said a new tenant will revive the Bondi Pavilion.
“I would like to see a business like Aquabumps [Bondi Photography] there, because I think that would be fabulous for the visitors who come to the pavilion,” she said.
Bondi Pavilion is set to undergo an overhaul as part of Council’s Bondi Plan of Management, which sets out a 10-year vision for the management of Bondi Beach, Park and Pavilion.
“Part of the plan is to looking at the pavilion, looking at the spaces there and seeing how we should use that,” Ms Betts said.