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Sector consultation underway for National Aquarium project

Published: 7 August 2019


The process to complete the detailed business case for the proposed expansion of the National Aquarium of New Zealand, known as Project Shapeshifter: Redefining our National Aquarium, has entered an important phase, with sector consultation underway.

The vision for Project Shapeshifter is being shared at a series of workshops, (during July and August) with stakeholders including iwi, youth and leaders from the fields of conservation, research, education and tourism.

Antoinette Campbell, Director Community Services, Napier City Council explains: “We are redefining our national aquarium to make a significant and positive contribution to New Zealand’s aquatic environments, from mountain top to deep ocean trench.

“These workshops with our sector partners are a crucial part of the detailed business case development and will help ensure from the outset that we have a plan to deliver a truly game-changing national aquarium for the region and our country.

"The name Project Shapeshifter 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.

“We are excited to share our ideas and passion for this project. We’re asking our stakeholders to join with us and contribute their valuable knowledge and expertise so that we can revitalise and shapeshift the national aquarium.

“A modern aquarium that reconnects people with our aquatic environment, and showcases aquatic life and humanity’s interdependence with it, will help people understand what goes on under the water and how our everyday actions can affect those fragile environments – both positively and negatively.

“We want to create a globally distinctive facility to amaze, inspire and compel. We can only achieve this by working closely with our partners and ensuring that their experience and perspectives are considered.

“There has been great buy-in from the workshops so far. Participants have been enthusiastic; not only for the project itself but also for the consultation process.

Once the sector workshops are completed and feedback collated, the public will be invited to participate by sharing their thoughts about the project. This is likely to be in September.

“We are hopeful that once people have had a chance to see how Project Shapeshifter is developing, they will be just as enthusiastic and excited about the huge potential of this project, and proud that such an inspirational and provocative facility is located in their region,” continues Campbell.
NCC's Antoinette Campbell: “We are excited to share our ideas and passion for this project. We’re asking our stakeholders to join with us and contribute their valuable knowledge and expertise so that we can revitalise and shapeshift the national aquarium."

Combined feedback from the sector consultation process and public engagement will feed into the detailed business case for Project Shapeshifter which is due to be presented to Government later this year. Should the detailed business case be approved, the project will take a big step towards becoming a reality.

“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. As such, we see it being funded through a mix of channels – ranging from central government through to private funding from various channels, both here and overseas,” says Antoinette Campbell.

Recap on the highlights of Project Shapeshifter

  • Create a globally distinctive icon to amaze, inspire and compel, that reconnects people with our aquatic environment, from mountain top to deep ocean trench, ki uta - ki tai, ki te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa, to care for the well-being of our planet.
  • Deliver a landmark conservation centre and contributing to research with learning at its core.
  • Project cost will be determined through the final detailed business case. A $10m investment will come from NCC over two years and the balance will be funded through a mix of public and private investment from both New Zealand and overseas.
  • Alignment with the objectives of Matariki: Hawke’s Bay’s Regional Development Strategy  for economic and social growth.
  • A strong indicative business case that contributes financially, environmentally and culturally to the region.
  • Alignment with  Napier City Council’s Long-Term Plan.
  • Full business case process has started and will be presented to Government later this year.
  • Key partners include Air New Zealand, University of Waikato, Hawke’s Bay Regional Council, Hawke’s Bay Tourism and local iwi.
  • Expanded facility earmarked to open in 2025.

Estimated Project Shapeshifter timeline

Late 2019   Detailed business case submitted to Government and (hopefully) approved
2020-2021  Detailed design and concept development (including consultation), and funding partnerships secured
2022-2024  Construction
2025            Redefined National Aquarium of New Zealand opens

See the Project Shapeshifter page for more details.

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