The University of Otago was investigating building an
aquarium at this Birch St site, but has now put its plans
on hold. Photo by Craig Baxter.
A University of Otago plan to build an aquarium in
Dunedin's inner harbour has been put on hold in favour of other
Sciences pro-vice-chancellor Prof Keith Hunter said it had
been eyeing up ''Shed G'' in Birch St - owned by Port Otago
subsidiary company Chalmers Property - as the ideal site for
a new aquarium.
However, ''serious issues'' over the ''useful life'' of the
wharf, whether it needed maintenance and who would pay for
it, went against using the site, he said.
A report to be discussed at this week's capital development
committee said issues with the site and the prioritisation of
other large building projects meant the project to replace
the earthquake-prone Portobello aquarium had been put on
Prof Hunter said this did not mean plans for a new aquarium
had been scrapped, just that it would be focusing on other
projects first - for example, the plan to upgrade and extend
its dental school.
''It's just further down the [priority development plan]
It was unclear how long the project would remain on hold.
It could depend on a report the university was working on
looking at aspects including its cashflow and the capacity of
the Dunedin construction industry.
If issues with the Birch St site could be resolved, the site
could be looked at again at a later date, or the university
could explore other land in the harbourside area.
Prof Hunter was still keen on the idea of the aquarium being
part of wider development of the harbourside.
''An involvement of the city and commerce and the university
in the redevelopment of that area would be very exciting.
''The Birch St greater area is just crying out for greater
development,'' he said.
It was not surprising other projects were given a higher
priority after process, which involved senior academics
including Prof Hunter. Upgrading laboratories in the
1960s-built Science 1 building were among projects that were
higher on the priority list, he said.
''My way of looking at these things is you have to look at
who's going to get the greatest benefit.
''The [Science 1 building project] affects some of the
biggest papers that we teach - papers that have got nearly
Port Otago chief executive Geoff Plunket confirmed it had
been approached by Otago University about the Shed G site,
but had heard nothing about it having ''serious issues'' with
The wharf was used ''every day'' and was not in need of
maintenance, Mr Plunket said.
''We haven't heard from them for a very long time, so I would
take that as meaning they don't have serious interest at this
With plans for a $100 million waterfront hotel in Dunedin
having fallen over and the university seemingly no longer
interested, Port Otago was now ''free to consider other
options for the site''.
''It's a fantastic site''.