Lyall Bay aquarium plans unveiled

$36m Lyall Bay aquarium plans revealed

KATIE CHAPMAN
Last updated 13:59 19/03/2013

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The largest viewing window in the southern hemisphere looking over a live kelp forest will be among the attractions at a new $36 million aquarium proposed for Wellington's South Coast.

The Wellington Marine Conservation Trust this morning unveiled its new marine centre plan to the Wellington City Council, four years after its  original project was scuppered by the Environment Court.

The new project would be called the New Zealand Ocean Exploration Centre and would include indoor and outdoor displays.

''The centre will be an exciting, educational and fun place where people of all ages will be able to see and learn about the marine life of Cook Strait, much of which is not found anywhere else in the world,'' trust chairman Victor Anderlini said.

Today's unveiling follows a four-year feasibility study. The original project was ditched in 2008 after an Environment Court decision the previous year blocked construction of a centre on Te Raekaihau Pt following heated community opposition.

The council had pledged a $7m interest-free loan for the construction of the Te Raekaihau centre and spent about $700,000 on the plan.

The new site for the aquarium is the disused Maranui Works Depot site, on the west side of Lyall Bay.

The trust expected the $36m would be funded from a combination of Crown and social investment, while the council would be asked to do necessary earthworks, landscaping, planting and other public amenity work.

Trade Me founder Sam Morgan is among the project's backers.

The trust was now looking to secure resource consents and funding for the new project.

Dr Anderlini said the centre would be ''unlike any visitor attraction in the Southern Hemisphere'' and was expected to attract about 250,000 visitors a year.

The displays would begin outside, with coastal, freshwater and marshland exhibits alongside a cafe.

Inside, people would make their way through series of displays designed to take viewers deep into Cook Strait.

From the rocky shore, people would move into a soft-bottomed display under a jetty.

They would then move to a giant kelp forest display behind the largest acrylic window in the southern hemisphere. The forest would be in an eight metre deep, 1m litre aquarium open to the sky.

People would then move through the shallow and deep reef displays of Cook Strait, including a sunken ship, before heading into the deepest area the abyss, where visitors would walk through a whale skeleton.

Heading back to the surface, people would walk through a jellyfish tunnel.

Other facilities include a ''Sprat Spot'' for preschoolers and an area for changing exhibits.
"When this centre becomes a reality, it will help all visitors to understand the vital issues affecting our ocean today and allow them to make better decisions about how to wisely use its resources for present and future generations,'' Dr Anderlini said.

Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown welcomed the proposal, which she said was a ''huge opportunity for Wellington''.

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She praised the funding partnership approach, and said the impact on ratepayers may not be too bad because grants funding was available. The council owned the land and would have to decontaminate it regardless.

''It has huge potential for for success, both economically and environmentally.''

Contact Katie Chapman
Wellington reporter
Email: katie.chapman@dompost.co.nz
Twitter: @katiechapman28

- The Dominion Post

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