From injecting millions into the local economy, to putting Napier on the world map - the benefits of a revamped Napier aquarium are being lauded.

Yesterday Napier City Council unveiled more details about their plan to expand the National Aquarium of New Zealand - with "high profile" partners including Weta Workshop and Air New Zealand coming on board.

Hopefully opened by 2021, it was hoped this expansion of the Marine Parade aquarium would generate jobs, grow the local economy, creating a unique eco-tourism destination, and delivering a landmark conservation centre of excellence.

It had an indicative cost of $45 million, with a $7m investment from the council over three years, and the balance sought through a mix of private, and public investment.


Weta Workshop confirmed its support for the project last week, council chief executive Wayne Jack said, heralding some spectacular and spellbinding design elements.

"We couldn't be more thrilled that Weta Workshop has come on board as our design partner, to create the wow factor and help us tell our stories in an innovative, original way.

"Weta's commitment, as well as the support of our other major partners, means this project has the potential to really fly."

Local agencies have heralded the project for being another tourism drawcard for Hawke's Bay, and boosting the local economy.

Hawke's Bay Chamber of Commerce chief executive Wayne Walford said this would build the region's profile, and would add "vibrancy to the network of opportunity" already in Hawke's Bay.

"It'll attract a whole lot of other people to the region just to check it out. So as part of a network, a collage of amazing things to do in Napier and Hawke's Bay, I think it's awesome.

"It just adds to the economic cycle so the more we put in the economic cycle, the more we get back out. That's with people employed, the extra travel the extra accommodation, the food.

"If we get a million dollars invested, that extra million dollars in the economic cycle sometimes we can get seven times that back into the community."


Hawke's Bay Tourism general manager Annie Dundas said the expansion would add to the mix of attractions in the region, meaning the region could suit lots of different audiences.

"It's a nationally significant project ... this benefits all New Zealand, [not just] Napier and Hawke's Bay."

The facility was already an attraction in its own right, but "having the might of an entity like Weta behind it brings a huge recognition at an international and national level".

"You just have to look at Wellington, and Hobbiton to see how successful that's been. The potential when working with Weta is fairly substantial."

Weta Workshop founder and creative director Richard Taylor said they were looking forward to developing its ideas.

"We are excited by the prospect of finding new and unique creative experiences that connect visitors emotionally with the conservation challenges faced by our oceans and natural environments."

Yesterday council manager visitor experiences Sally Jackson said the project was a game-changer for Hawke's Bay.

"It puts us on the map as a conservation centre of excellence and an eco-tourism destination of major significance.

"Contemporary aquariums are all about education and awareness, advancing knowledge through research, encouraging a conservation mindset and promoting environmental sustainability," she said.

"This is an exciting opportunity for our National Aquarium right here in Hawke's Bay to become a landmark conservation centre for New Zealand."

Napier Mayor Bill Dalton said the ultimate goal would be creating an unforgettable aquarium experience.

"It's already a fantastic facility for our community and for those visiting Hawke's Bay, but we're now on a mission to create an absolutely extraordinary experience, so that people coming to New Zealand will not be able to leave the country without spending time at our aquarium."

The project was underpinned by both a solid business case and the pillars of Matariki: Hawke's Bay's Regional Economic Development Strategy. The council had been working on the project since mid last year, and received government funding to compile the indicative business case.

At the time this funding was announced, the proposed expansion included a submersible lift that would take visitors under water, the largest research display tanks in New Zealand, and full scale living laboratories.

Also on board the project was Hawke's Bay Regional Council, Hawke's Bay Tourism, local iwi, Air New Zealand, and the University of Waikato - who would conduct work, and research at the aquarium.

Napier City Council will formally consider the indicative business case at the end of the month. If supported by councillors, it will then be presented to Government for funding consideration, and the business case further developed.