Napier City Council seeking funds from government to complete National Aquarium upgrades

3:40 pm on 10 January 2023

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The National Aquarium of New Zealand in Napier.

The National Aquarium Photo: RNZ / Sam Olley

Napier City Council is once again fishing for funds from the government to complete upgrades on the city's aquarium, with one failed bid for assistance under its belt.

The National Aquarium in the Hawke's Bay city, run by the council, has been in the spotlight for its degradation.

Reports have found areas out of public view have "extensive corrosion" and have called some of the practices, such as diving standards and life support systems "rudimentary" and "questionable".

A plan to massively redevelop the aquarium dubbed "Project Shapeshifter" is no longer likely to go ahead, as the government chose not to give the council the $15-25 million it was asking for.

Napier Mayor Kirsten Wise said options for the future of the aquarium were still being worked through.

Council management would speak to aquarium staff next year, then the council would go out for community consultation at a later date, Wise said.

In November, the government launched the "Innovation Programme for Tourism Recovery", a $54m fund to encourage ideas to lower carbon emissions, improve environmental sustainability, promote technology, protect taonga Māori and the tourism industry.

Wise said the council would like to get a cut of the money, optimistically hoping for $9-10.

She said staff were in the "early stages" of writing an application.

"We obviously had quite a significant redevelopment project that we were considering a few years ago, so we're working through a process of looking at that and seeing if there's parts of that that may be able to be pulled out."

They would not look at doing anything like Project Shapeshifter again, "unless central government suddenly decided that they wanted to invest a significant amount of money".

"I've always been very adamant that we should be getting more support from central government because it is the National Aquarium of New Zealand. So I'll be continuing to talk about that and be the squeaky wheel with regards to that because I think we should be getting more funding from them."

In October, the aquarium got its reaccreditation from the Zoo and Aquarium Association of Australasia, which assesses animal welfare at the site every three years.

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