Building to start on $5m laboratory

BILL MOORE
Last updated 13:00 15/10/2012

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Nelson's Cawthron Institute has announced that construction is set to start before Christmas on its $5 million new high technology laboratory block at its Halifax St campus.

The project will provide nearly 400 square metres of lab space to replace some of its present facilities built in the 1970s, as well as offices, meeting rooms and staff rooms.

Cawthron is New Zealand's largest independent research institute specialising in environmental research and research for the food and aquaculture industries. It also has substantial testing laboratories and provides seafood safety testing.

Board chairman Ian Kearney said the new building was a key part of the institute's focus on continuing innovation in scientific research and development.

It was stage one of a four-stage project to replace the facilities and laboratories in the Rigg Building, many of which were outdated.

Earlier this year Cawthron sold its environmental testing business to R J Hill Laboratories and said it wanted to re-focus on high-value research and development.

"The new building underpins this strategy," Mr Kearney said. Cawthron was expanding specialist analytical services in "challenging areas of new method development and health claim validations for foods and nutraceuticals".

For example, it recently announced the development of very high-value algae compounds, CNCs, which it was selling to overseas laboratories for hundreds of thousands of dollars a gram.

Chief executive Charles Eason said Cawthron worked closely with many companies and the new building would further strengthen its support of the aquaculture and food industries with research in shellfish food safety, adding high-end value to foods as well as protection.

The city project would mirror recent growth in laboratories and shellfish breeding capability at the Cawthron Aquaculture Park at the Glen, just outside Nelson.

Prof Eason said two key requirements of the building's design were sustainability and a design in keeping with the character of the neighbourhood.

The two-storey building would be set 10 metres back from the street boundary and include significant landscaping at the front along the Halifax St frontage.

Cawthron, a not-for-profit organisation, would self-fund the project.

It was a big investment but vital if the institute was to continue to provide the science required by its partners. "We more than trebled the size of laboratories and production facilities at the Cawthron Aquaculture Park two years ago and we are already starting to think of further expansion of these," Prof Eason said.

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- The Nelson Mail

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