Trade Me founder and philanthropist Sam Morgan has thrown his support behind a possible $28 million marine education centre in a Lyall Bay quarry.
The plan for a centre on Wellington's south coast at Te Raekaihau Pt was scrapped in 2007 after residents opposed its construction, but the Maranui Quarry site was mooted by the Wellington Marine Conservation Trust the following year.
Trust chairman Victor Anderlini said discussions for the quarry were continuing with Wellington City Council, with a feasibility study due to be completed around the end of November.
"The feasibility study is showing that it is a very suitable location, but the results of the market research and doing the financials are just coming in now.
"There is more work to do yet before we can go public."
When the concept for the new centre was first reported in 2009, it was expected to cost around $28m, of which about $5m would come from private benefactors.
The cost and funding for the project were still being assessed, but current plans were in the same ballpark, Dr Anderlini said.
Sam Morgan, who sold Trade Me in 2006 for more than $700m and now runs a philanthropic organisation, was acting as a member of the steering group for the project.
He became involved with the project after the plans for Te Raekaehau Pt were binned.
"If we can make it happen then it's a fantastic thing for Wellington," he said.
"I think Wellington suffers from having not quite enough attractions of that nature. But I've got no doubt that if we get it off the ground that it will be a great success."
The centre was first mooted by Dr Anderlini and trust secretary Judy Hutt in 1998, but came up against staunch opposition from locals who said the centre would seriously alter the coastal environment.
If the council approved the project, the 1.8-hectare quarry project would need to be funded from a variety of sources, Mr Morgan said.
"It's about getting it to a point where we can take it to the next stage and get others involved in the funding as well. I'd expect to be part of the funding mix, but it's a big project so will certainly be more than just me."
Council chief financial officer Peter Garty said discussions were steadily making progress and council funding had been suggested.
"We haven't got councillor approval for any such money yet, it would have to go in the mix of any planning process that we have.
"But that would not kick off for a few months yet, so we don't have anything earmarked at this stage."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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