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Image: Tina Tiller
Image: Tina Tiller

BusinessJuly 11, 2022

Sad: Napier’s Opossum World is closing down after nearly 50 years

Image: Tina Tiller
Image: Tina Tiller

You have until July 22 to see five possums singing ‘On the Road Again’. 

Napier’s Opossum World is closing its doors after nearly 50 years, the latest iconic local attraction forced to shut down due to the ongoing impact of Covid-19. “We just can’t manage the overheads,” owner Lynette Jarvis told The Spinoff. “I haven’t had any income for two years. I used to have two other staff, but it is just me now.”

The museum-shop hybrid, now situated on Hastings Street, has delighted locals and tourists alike for decades. Come for the cowl neck possum fur poncho, stay for the five stuffed possums on the back of a mini singing ‘On the Road Again’. Want to see a possum dressed in art deco garb? Look no further. Want to see what possums look like when they make love? Here you go.

The enduring appeal of Opossum World over the years has been multifaceted, said Jarvis. “There’s the fun and quirky part, like the singing possums on the Mini, people really love that. You hear people roar with laughter out there, they really love it.” But there’s an informative element too, including a soundboard of native birdsong and the possum life cycle. 

“Tourists would stay out there for about half an hour and read every single word about possums that we’ve got, you know? It’s been quite amazing.” 

The Opossum World museum

Visiting in 2019, The Spinoff saw first-hand the impact that Opossum World had on visiting guests. “Algud brutha,” a message in the guestbook read. “Mad weird innit,” said another. Jarvis said that although the stuffed possums might not be to everyone’s taste – Vice called it a “dingy death pit” – there was never a dull moment at Opossum World. 

“I know people in different shops that have grumpier customers, but it is very unusual to have grumpy customers here because everyone is usually chirpy and upbeat.” 

Unfortunately there has been a dramatic decline in those chirpy and upbeat customers. “Before Covid hit we were operating at about 70% tourists, so we’ve been operating on 30% but having much the same outgoings.” Government subsidies made a small difference, but a looming lease renewal and a pending hip operation forced Jarvis to make the tough decision to close up. 

“I’m quite sad about it but I have to do what I have to do,” she said. The Opossum World museum will close on July 22, with parts of the display to be dismantled and relocated to Ranui Farm Park. The five possums mounted on the back of a Mini singing ‘On the Road Again’ has been listed on TradeMe, with a reserve of $2,500. Jarvis will be keeping the art deco possums, but will be listing more possums in coming days. “They are quite old of course,” she laughed. 

The Opossum World shop will close a month later on August 22. “People absolutely love possum and merino clothing, they really do. They put something on and they ‘ooh’ and they ‘ahh’, and a lot of people come in and just love window shopping.” Regardless of whether they bought anything or not, Jarvis said she appreciated every single visitor to Opossum World.

“Thank you for all the love that you have given Opossum World over the years, I’m very sorry that we can’t continue it, because people do say there’s nothing else like it in New Zealand.”

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