Kelly Tarlton's set for $5.5m upgrade
A $5.5 million upgrade of Auckland's iconic Kelly Tarlton's will make the venue more interactive and give marine lovers the chance to get up close and personal with it's star penguins.
The five month renovation, due to be completed in September, will also see the waterfront aquarium put more emphasis on marine life in New Zealand and Antarctic waters.
The move honours a commitment made by international entertainment group Merlin when they purchased the tourist hot spot last April.
The aquarium is now part of the world's largest aquarium group, Sea Life, and will be rebranded Kelly Tarlton's Sea Life.
Sea Life owns aquariums at a number of international locations including Sydney, Korea and Thailand.
Kelly Tarlton's general manager James Thomas says the upgrade will improve animal habitats and the visitor experience, including the penguin enclosure which is part of the Antarctic exhibit.
"Our penguins are one of the many reasons our guests visits us and are always amazed with our collection.
"Our new experience will ensure guests can spend as much time as they like with the penguins and get to know their individual personalities and traits."
There will be a new layout and exhibit structure and an interactive trail where junior explorers can recreate the life and work of Kelly Tarlton - the aquarium's founder.
Tarlton opened the aquarium in 1985 in disused sewage storage tanks on Tamaki Dr.
Following renovations the attraction will have 10 themed zones, more than 30 live animal displays and 80 different species and will produce four tonnes of snow daily.
Thomas says Sea Life is recognised for its work in breeding, conservation and campaigning.
Because Kelly Tarlton's was on sensitive land, the deal required Government approval from the Overseas Investment Office.
The acquisition of the aquarium was part of a wider A$116m (NZ$157.5m) deal to buy the Sydney aquarium, Sydney Wildlife World, the Sydney Tower Observatory and other attractions in Australia.
Merlin runs 70 attractions in 16 countries, including Legoland and waxworks museum Madame Tussauds.