A marine science institute - including a public aquarium
- that could help transform Dunedin's waterfront could be built
with Chinese assistance.
An offer to help the University of Otago build the facility,
if it proceeded, was made by a Chinese party in Qingdao
earlier this month, during the Dunedin delegation's trip to
Shanghai, China, it has been confirmed.
Dunedin City Council chief executive Dr Sue Bidrose said it
was one of several potential business joint ventures
discussed during the trip, although the offer was yet to be
considered in detail.
''There was an offer to help build a marine centre. We
haven't taken that up, but the University [of Otago] has been
passed on that there was an offer.''
She could not say who was behind the offer, but Qingdao
University, China's leading marine research institution, had
also expressed interest in collaborating on the project at an
academic level, she said.
The University of Otago's two representatives on the trip -
Research and Enterprise Office director Dr Gavin Clark and
biomedical global partnerships business manager David
Grimmett - both said they were unaware of the offer.
So, too, was sciences pro-vice-chancellor Prof Keith Hunter,
who earlier this month confirmed a waterfront aquarium, as
part of a marine science institute, was an option being
considered for Dunedin's harbour-side zone.
He said the offer of Chinese help to build the facility was
''news to me'', but would be beneficial, and he would look
into it if it was referred to him.
''It's no secret the university's considering a project like
that ... If there's a Chinese group that are interested, then
that's good news as far as I'm concerned,'' he said.
A university spokeswoman, responding to a list of Otago
Daily Times questions yesterday, declined further
Dr Bidrose stressed the offer was yet to be discussed in any
detail, either in China or Dunedin, but those making it had
''heard something through the grapevine'' about the project.
The ODT reported earlier this month university and
council staff had held preliminary talks about the project,
which could replace the old Portobello aquarium, which closed
to the public in 2012.
Dr Bidrose said sister city relationships were in part about
looking for common interests to collaborate on, such as the
relationship agreement signed by the University of Otago's
Research and Enterprise Office and Shanghai Jiao Tong
University's Advanced Industrial Technology Research
That agreement, reported by the ODT on Monday, would
see the two institutions collaborating on research and
However, Qingdao University's involvement in a Dunedin marine
science institute was another ''obvious area'', Dr Bidrose
''In the same way as we're looking for economic development
opportunities, so is China,'' she said.