TODAY |

No giant pandas for Wellington Zoo

The Prime Minister appears to have given up on bringing giant pandas from China to Wellington Zoo.

John Key's pet project to bring pandas to Wellington Zoo is proving divisive. Source: Seven Sharp

In a statement to ONE News, a spokesman for John Key confirmed there have been no conversations about acquiring the black and white bears since the cost of bringing them here was hotly debated last year.

"It’s a matter for Wellington Zoo," the statement says.

It was estimated it would cost $10 million to create a panda enclosure, with another $1.3 million each year to lease a pair from China.

The Government had lobbied hard for a deal, even suggesting New Zealand swaps two kiwi birds for two panda bears.

Today Wellington Zoo all but ruled the idea out, releasing a list of priority animals for the next decade, which did not include pandas.

It’s now interested in snow leopards, wombats and ring-tailed lemurs, saying it would find room for pandas if the Government covered the bulk of the costs.

City Mayor Celia Wade-Brown, who believed pandas would have "considerable conservation and economic benefits", has also changed tact.

A spokesman says "she has nothing further to add to discussion on panda bears".