MP floats fishing museum proposal

WATERFRONT DISPUTE: A row has broken out over MP Nick Smith’s proposal for a marine education centre at the former Crop and Food Seafood Research building on Wakefield Quay.
WATERFRONT DISPUTE: A row has broken out over MP Nick Smith’s proposal for a marine education centre at the former Crop and Food Seafood Research building on Wakefield Quay.

Nelson MP Nick Smith used his campaign launch last night to announce an ambitious new plan to set up a fishing museum and marine education centre in the historic powerhouse building on Wakefield Quay.

The building, adorned with a mural on the northern end, now houses Plant and Food Research but the science agency is relocating to the port reclamation in 2016, leaving its water intakes, filters, fish tanks and labs behind.

Smith and fishing industry leader Peter Talley settled a trust deed this week, with maritime lawyer Peter Dawson as trust chairman.

Smith told a Boathouse crowded with genial supporters that the centre would be about asserting and celebrating Nelson's status as New Zealand's fishing capital and was "the right idea, right time and right place".

It would have live fish in aquariums and show how species such as mussels, oysters and salmon are farmed, and be a place "where children get their hands wet and learn about the marine environment".

It would teach the history of the fishing industry from early Maori days to the present, and would build public support for wise stewardship of New Zealand's oceans.

Talley had given an "amazing" collection of more than 200 seabirds, fish, marine mammals and other sea creatures obtained from a Whangarei taxidermist and vested in a trust. Smith had alerted him 15 years ago when there was Conservation Department concern that the collection might be sold to an overseas buyer. "There is much work to do on a feasibility study, fundraising, securing the building with the city council and developing this concept but I am excited about the potential for this idea to enhance Nelson," Smith said.

It would provide the opportunity to re-start the school education programme that ran at the Mapua Aquarium until it was burned down in 2011, with funding for that work still available.

The building had a heritage listing and might require some earthquake strengthening, he said. It was owned by the Nelson City Council and he'd had "a preliminary positive discussion" on the trust acquiring the lease.

Smith said the idea would work better if it was in conjunction with relocating the state highway to the southern link. "If we move the state highway we've got the room to create a lot more parking along the Early Settlers Memorial along to the Boatshed, but I don't see the projects as mutually exclusive."

Capital and running costs would be looked at in the feasibility study, he said. Establishing the trust was the first step and he hoped to announce a list of nine trustees over the next few weeks.

Smith made the marine education centre his main announcement but the only round of spontaneous applause came when he reaffirmed his support for building the southern link and developing Rocks Rd into a boulevard for walking, cycling and recreation.

Nelson's 8.2 per cent growth rate between the last two censuses was only just behind Auckland's 8.5 per cent, he said.

"We must ensure our infrastructure keeps up with that growth and that we provide efficient links between the region and our port and city."

The other three projects he said he would advocate for if re-elected for a ninth parliamentary term would be:

The Waimea Community Dam and irrigation scheme, which he said could expand Nelson's horticultural production by $50 million a year.

A health learning centre to support the training and upskilling of nurses, doctors and other health professionals.

Working with the city council and School of Music on changes to its constitution and securing funding for earthquake strengthening to enable the 113-year-old building's reopening.

Smith said he and his campaign team, led by lawyer Gary Stocker, were better prepared than in any of his previous eight campaigns to spread the message that "only a party vote for National can keep our community heading in the right direction".

The party vote was the primary goal but he would never take the privilege of representing Nelson in Parliament for granted, he said.

Labour's Nelson candidate, Maryan Street, told the Mail earlier this week that she wouldn't be having a campaign launch, instead concentrating on door-knocking and targeted leaflet drops.