Science centre eyes big opportunity

Organisation wants to be part of IT hub

CHARLIE GATES
Last updated 05:00 29/07/2011
MOVING ON: Science Alive! is keen to sell its quake-damaged former railway station site and use the proceeds and its insurance payout to rebuild in a proposed inner-city IT hub.
JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON/ The Press
MOVING ON: Science Alive! is keen to sell its quake-damaged former railway station site and use the proceeds and its insurance payout to rebuild in a proposed inner-city IT hub.

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Science Alive! is considering building a multimillion-dollar science centre in central Christchurch.

The new building would be funded by the sale of the organisation's 6000-square-metre Moorhouse Ave site and an insurance payout for earthquake damage.

The Science Alive! site has a rateable value of about $5m.

The organisation was interested in rebuilding in a proposed information technology (IT) hub.

Christchurch City councillors yesterday approved the use of the former Para Rubber site, on the corner of Tuam St and Manchester St, for the IT hub.

Thirty quake-displaced IT businesses, employing more than 440 people, want to move to the site on the edge of the inner-city red zone.

Science Alive! chief executive Neville Petrie said the organisation could play a key role in the new IT hub.

"We are in a position now where we have an amazing opportunity to do something really good for science communication," he said. "We have indicated that we would be very interested in being a conduit to the public for the IT hub. We could communicate the exciting things the companies are doing.

"We would like a new building that suggests science and technology, rather than an old railway station."

Petrie said the new science centre could feature a 200-seat 3D cinema and observatory that could be used as a lecture theatre and conference facility by IT hub tenants.

The Science Alive! building was badly damaged in the February earthquake. Brick cladding on the tower has caved in, but the concrete and steel frame remains intact.

Large cracks have opened up through the triple brick walls and internal walls are also damaged.

Petrie said the repair and strengthening work for the building would be a "massive" job.

He is also lobbying for Science Alive! to be recognised by the Government as a national science centre for New Zealand.

"We are one of the few countries in the OECD [Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development] that does not have a national science centre."

IT hub co-leader Colin Andersen, director of IT consultancy Effectus, said a science centre on the site would work well.

"I think there would be really nice synergy ... you can see all the bits of the puzzle there. The hi-tech companies can seed their products in Science Alive! as a display vehicle," he said.

"I feel really positive about Science Alive! being part of this."

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- The Press

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