Could Kapiti host a marine education centre?
By Dr Viola Palmer
One long-awaited day arrived recently when I had an excuse to travel to Wellington and visit the Marine Education Centre.
The grandchildren were with us — and we approached the Centre in a glorious Cook Strait gale and step into the shelter inside. I imagine it’s like stepping into Scott Base in an Antarctic blizzard.
Welcome from Victor
We are welcomed by the smiling weather-beaten face of Dr Victor Anderlini.
Immediately there’s the personal touch, which is continued by the half dozen volunteers some of whom have PhD’s.
At the first tank I am enchanted by the beauty of a large octopus moving around elegantly. I learn that it has 9 brains, one for each tentacle and one to coordinate the lot.
There are tanks with fish, turtles, sea horses, crayfish and all kinds of marine life.
Troughs for sea stars
Best of all are the large shallow troughs containing sea stars, sea anemone, sea cucumbers, sea slugs , crabs and others.
The grandchildren stand on boxes and gently handle these creatures. The volunteers answer all our ignorant questions without making us feel silly.
I am usually a bird or plant enthusiast, but this place is a gem.
For 20 years Victor and his partner Judy Hutt have collected and displayed marine life from our shores. Their passion is to educate and and enthuse people about our marine life. Thousands of adults and school groups have been through their modest Centre.
An earlier visit to the Bug Display at Te Papa was a totally different experience.
There the children were enchanted by the technological wizardry used to explain insect life. But most of the insects such as the Orchid Mantis and the Jewelled Wasp in the large displays were foreigners. The explanations were in writing rather than in person. The contrast extended to the price too.
Knock back for expansion plans
Victor, Judy and the Marine Conservation Organisation wanted to build a bigger and better facility on the sea front at Island Bay, but were knocked back in an Appeal Court hearing.
Now they are hoping to set up in an old quarry . If this fails, should we invite them to Kapiti? A marine education centre would marry well with our marine reserve.