Sea Life Centre

Marine Education Centre at Island Bay

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.

This is a great idea that members of the Guardians of Kāpiti marine reserve have also been putting out there as an idea for the Raumati pools site. I could see a facility similar to the marine lab at Goat island being very successful with space for a range of marine focused ventures such as a discovery/education center/aquarium, as a base for the Experiencing Marine Reserves program and as a research base for post grad students from Vic or waikato university (both of whcih have ongoing research programs in the reserve) to conduct research in and around the marine reserve. I would be keen to form a working group with anyone else who’s interested to progress this idea.

I would be happy to see a Marine Education Centre at the old Raumati Swimming pool. It is currently empty. It would fit in with Marine gardens being suitable for children and could encourage visitors to shop in Raumati. However, an updated Management plan is needed for Marine gardens otherwise you will get unplanned development.