Napier has a long and impressive record of aquarium development, making it the logical site for the National Aquarium of New Zealand. The city established its first public aquarium in 1956, believed to be the first in New Zealand. A small group of residents, fascinated with fish life and wanting to share their experience and knowledge, set up an aquarium in the basement of the War Memorial Centre
, now an in-demand conference venue at the northern end of Napier’s Marine Parade.
The city’s first purpose-built aquarium opened in 1976 and after an $8 million redevelopment, the National Aquarium officially opened in March 2002.
Aquarium staff have an international reputation for specialist knowledge, including reptile expertise and an ability to keep stocks alive well beyond natural life expectancy rates.
The National Aquarium was the first aquarium to hatch a turtle egg (1975). It has the world’s oldest living tuatara hatched in captivity (hatched 1980) and these are now part of a database for genetic diversity. Other scientific programmes involved researching the sustainability of the Orange Roughy fishery, the effect of ageing on fish and measuring stress levels in tuatara.
Local fishermen visit regularly to deliver their catch or identify unusual species they have found in the bay. No part of New Zealand is more than 130 kilometers from the sea, making marine education and curiosity natural amongst this country’s four million population.