New marine research and education facility coming to Tauranga

A state-of-the-art marine research and education facility is coming to Marine Park, Sulphur Point in Tauranga.

21 Jun 2024

A state-of-the-art marine research and education facility is coming to Marine Park, Sulphur Point in Tauranga. Tauranga City Council and the University of Waikato are pleased to announce their agreement to lease a site at Marine Park to establish the new facility. 

L-R: University of Waikato Tauranga campus Kaumātua Tamati Tata, Professor Neil Quigley, Professor Chris Battershill, Priority One General Manager - Workforce and Policy Greg Simmonds and Tauranga City Council Chief Financial Officer Paul Davidson.

“This is an exciting opportunity for Tauranga to continue to assert its position as a leader in marine research and education. The University of Waikato will provide public education and outreach programmes to involve the wider community in all facets of marine education and research,” says Anne Tolley, Tauranga City Council Commission Chair. 

Marine Park is an ideal location for the new facility, situated on the edge of the Tauranga Harbour and offering access to a diverse range of marine environments. The new facility will replace the University’s existing Coastal Marine Field Station and will include research laboratories, classrooms, and public engagement spaces. It will be equipped with the latest technology to enable innovative research and education in marine science, conservation, and sustainability. The site will complement the research and education already being undertaken at the University’s Durham Street campus in Tauranga city centre and the Adams Centre at Mount Maunganui. 

University of Waikato Vice-Chancellor, Professor Neil Quigley, says the facility will put the Bay of Plenty on the global stage for marine science, linking education and research through programmes that provide insight into climate change and environmental sustainability. 

University of Waikato marine scientist Professor Chris Battershill says the unique marine environments around the Bay of Plenty region makes the location of the new facility a “nationally and naturally significant base to examine resilience in our increasingly stressed marine estate while identifying advances for our blue economy.” 

Tauranga is uniquely placed to foster the education and research of different marine environments. This will be the only facility in New Zealand, and perhaps the world, with access to almost all marine habitats on its doorstep – from catchments, beaches and lakes to Whakaari/White Island and the largest working harbour in the country. This new facility will enable us to learn critical ways to protect our marine life by making the invisible visible, so we can continue to enjoy our special connection with the water. 

The tender process for leasing the land was completed in March 2023. Council received only one tender. Through its tender, the University of Waikato demonstrated the capability to establish and operate such a facility. Negotiations with the University of Waikato commenced in April 2023 and concluded successfully in June 2024. 

“It is wonderful to see the next steps in this new facility commence. This facility represents huge opportunities not only for Tauranga, but also for global research and future generations of New Zealanders. Tauranga City Council looks forward to working with the University of Waikato, the local community and industry partners to establish this important new facility,” says Anne. 

Priority One Chief Executive Nigel Tutt says there are huge opportunities for New Zealand in marine sciences, biotechnologies and aquaculture. “The new facility at Marine Park will provide access to the world-class expertise needed to push this forward; helping our country to develop exciting new export sectors and providing us with excellent environmental research,” says Nigel.

MP for Tauranga Sam Uffindell says the new facility is another exciting step forward for Tauranga. "I have long wanted us to develop Tauranga into a place of opportunity. This exciting collaboration between the University of Waikato and Tauranga City Council will help develop Tauranga as a leading hub in aquaculture and biotech. Ultimately, this will help bring higher skilled and better paid jobs to Tauranga so we can grow our economy." 

The University of Waikato will now progress with funding and design, and obtaining the necessary consents required to build the facility. It is anticipated it will be open in 2027/2028. 

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