Aquarium to 'be proud of'

The head of the University of Otago's division of sciences says plans for a new aquarium are ''well under way'' and he is confident the university will build a facility Dunedin can be ''proud of''.

Last June, the university announced the decision to demolish an aquarium building in Portobello after it was found to meet less than 15% of the new-building standard for earthquake strength.

Sciences pro-vice-chancellor Prof Keith Hunter said the university had approved stage one of the project, which involved the property services division investigating the options for a new aquarium.

The options were either rebuilding at the Portobello site, building in the city, or not replacing the facility at all, Prof Hunter said.

However, he was confident based on the ''mood'' of staff the university would not go with the third option.

''I am quite confident we will have a good outcome and we will have a facility that the city can be proud of.''

Property services division director Barry MacKay said a recommendation would likely be made to the university council shortly.

Prof Hunter said he would prefer a new facility be built closer to the city, but the decision would likely come down to cost.

Building in town would be more difficult than rebuilding on the old site because of the need to pump water to the aquarium and because the seawater in the upper harbour was less suitable than at Portobello.

Prof Hunter said if an initial design was approved, stage two of the project would involve drawing up more detailed designs and cost estimates, which would require final approval by the vice-chancellor and the university council.

Prof Hunter said he was happy with the speed at which the project was progressing. This was despite then head of marine science Prof Gary Wilson saying last year he wanted the building completed by the start of this academic year.

''I actually think this project is going along at a very good pace and the sense of urgency that I and Gary tried to instil is being listened to.''

Given the building would be used for about 50 years it was important the university took the time to get it right, he said.

The university had carried out temporary earthquake strengthening measures at the aquarium, so technical staff could care for fish held there.

-vaughan.elder@odt.co.nz

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