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Aquarium Expansion ProjectTe kaupapa whakawhānui i Te Whare Tangaroa o Aotearoa

A detailed business case for a redefined National Aquarium will be presented to central government towards the end of 2019. If all goes to plan, Napier could have a new $51 million aquarium in 2023/24.


What is Project Shapeshifter?

The expansion of the aquarium is known as Project Shapeshifter: Redefining our National Aquarium. This name is emblematic of Māui – the ‘shapeshifter’ and great East Polynesian ancestor-explorer of the Pacific Ocean. Our challenge is to be bold and adventurous like Māui – to be a shapeshifter and game-changer.

Our vision is to create an iconic destination that all New Zealanders will be proud of. A memorable experience that centres Aotearoa New Zealand as the environmental champion for Papatūānuku planet earth and her oceans.

Redefining our National Aquarium gives us a unique opportunity to tell New Zealand’s freshwater and marine story through themes of sustainable utilisation and conservation. Located in the heart of Te Matau-a-Māui Hawkes Bay, the National Aquarium is best positioned to tell the story of Aotearoa New Zealand from mountain top to deep trench, promoting the best of environmental science with leading indigenous knowledge systems and Te Ao Māori, the Māori worldview.

How will we fund it?

We are looking for new and innovative ways to externally fund the construction and ongoing operational costs of the aquarium. We are mindful that the cost cannot fall solely on Napier ratepayers. The business case will seek to position the aquarium as an attraction of truly national significance, in much the same way as Te Papa Tongarewa is.  As such, it will be funded through a mix of channels – ranging from central government through to private funding from various channels, both here and overseas.

Building the business case 

Project Shapeshifter will attempt to create a compelling movement as the business case for change is developed. To better understand how we may redefine our National Aquarium, we need to ensure there is national input - and hopefully support - for what will eventuate. Project Shapeshifter will undertake an extensive engagement programme across Aotearoa New Zealand to build momentum on our vision. Workshops will be held with Māori leaders, environmental experts, the tourism industry and research and education providers. These workshops will bring together diverse thinkers to contribute to the development of the business case and redefine what will be on offer.

Our aquarium has the potential to be a national centre of excellence, showcasing research, education, environmental stewardship, indigenous knowledge and science. This will provide a unique experience that would not be found anywhere else in the world. After our initial workshops with sector experts and iwi, we will share our concepts and look for input from the public on what they would like to see. We want this to be a project that all of New Zealand can feel a sense of ownership of and be proud of.

The detailed business case for a redefined National Aquarium will be presented to the Government in late 2019. We are excited by this project and the opportunities it presents to the entire region.

Where we're up to

In 2018, Napier City Council submitted an Indicative Business Case to the Government for a redefined National Aquarium of New Zealand. There was strong support given for this by ratepayers in the Long Term Plan 2018-2028 consultation, with an allocated project budget of $10.2M. Following the submission of the Indicative Business Case to the Government, NCC received funding from the Government’s Provincial Growth Fund to complete a Detailed Business Case for a new expanded aquarium. This will be presented to the Government in late 2019.



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