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Wellington Marine Education Centre

(A case study: Evaluating Environmental Education resources  for their total environmental impact using a 5 Step Analysis.)


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Without sustainable images of the nature of energy we cannot begin to envision a sustainable society and develop a Knowledge Economy. Indeed great civilisations have disappeared because they developed flawed images of how energy works.


Personal statement
Te Raekaihau Point Proposal

ystem of analysis
Te Raekaihau Point Analysis

Alternative Proposal and Analysis

General Comments


Photo Essays
Maranui, the Post Cheap Oil-Gas Age Answer.

Wellington, the Oil-driven City

The Unreality of Architect's Car Parks.

Storm Surge Risks

IImportant Update Note June 2006

The main article is a submission I made to the Wellington City Council and Greater Wellington Regional Council opposing the destruction of our foreshore at Te Raekaihau Point for the construction of tourism entertainment centre as proposed by the my local Member of Parliament (Hon Annette King), City and Regional councillors and the Wellington Marine Conservation Trust. 

Note:  If we had had a civic-minded City Council it would have ensured this foreshore reserve status two decades ago.

The so-called Aquarium of New Zealand is promoted as an education centre though it is fundamentally an industrial concern with high entry fees and it promotes wasteful and high risk uses of our limited oil reserves.

In the submission I examine education claims by the Trust and WCC and show that even if it were an education centre it will be counterproductive to learning objectives and needlessly destructive of our environment. I show this by comparing the educational impacts of this use of Te Raekaihau Point to the old Maranui depot at the end of Hungerford Road. The latter site is not on the foreshore, links directly to a mass electric transit system and teaches a much more sustainable message.

My conclusion is that the proposal is fundamentally a carbon dioxide factory and puts the oceans at risk.

Commissioners were deadlocked in the final vote of the hearings and new hearings with new commissioners were called for. In the event the Trust subverted this process by submitting a new proposal. Since my first submission I have been made aware of the following information and insights:

1)    Global oil and Gas reserve estimates have been modified again and oil prices have risen to over $US70.

2)    It has been revealed that the Wellington City Council is discussing scenarios that expose ratepayers to very high debt levels as it attempts to sustain present activities.

3)    The Wellington City Council has continually refused to publicly discuss other proposals for a tourist aquarium similar to the Trust proposal. These include a $25NZ million proposal for the central city water front area that would require no ratepayer money at all.

4)    The architect, Ian Athfield, is driven by 1960s sensibilities that are completely inappropriate for this age, This and other of his recent designs reflect the dominant beliefs of that age which was that oil and Gas reserves are as bounteous as energy and combustion has no impact on the global thermal balances.

5)  Just after my appearance before the Commission, one of the Wellington’s broadsheets, the Dominion Post, reported the City Planner approved the Trust proposal for Te Raekaihau Point because he is convinced of its educational value. I have since established he has zero evidence for this and that the Trust has no credible education base. At best the Trust uses outdated  and inadequate education processes and is limited to primitiveteaching approaches that stress 'wildlife experience' or 'nature study'and omits modern education developments that also provide an integrated focus on “human interactions and political processes” Link to definition and discussion with WCC

6)    I have been provided with more evidence that the proposed building sit has not been quarried and destroyed as the Trust members claim. Human impact on it superficial and can be repaired. The site is a unique and accessible example of major geological interest. 

I have been provided with evidence by Coral Hyam suggesting that similar industrial aquarium ventures have failed on scale around the world. For instance, Link to the full article Aquarium Dilemma from which the following statement is taken.

hree elements are key, says Deb Fassnacht, executive vice-president of the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago and a student of the industry.

They need to be part of a critical mass of attractions. They can't be saddled with debt. And they must have "something charismatic" to attract the large numbers of paying customers they require to stay afloat.”

The Trust’s proposal for such an industry on Te Raekaihau Point fails on all three indices plus other major environment indices. I now confidently predict if the Wellington City Council and Greater Wellington Regional approves this proposal it will become a continuing international embarrassment for them and a constant drain on diminishing regional resources in the Post Cheap Oil-Gas Age. Worse, it will bring great misery for proponents who fervently believe it enhance sensibility of our oceans and it form a liability for our children. Education driven proponents will realise the modest existing programme is lost and achieves far more than this industrial model.
Watch this space for the next two decades.


Personal statement

We are the oceans. We are each a tiny bundle of ocean containing a spark of intelligence that has ventured out on to wander the reaches of dry land. We can now even explore the heights of Earth’s atmosphere and beyond into space. However regardless of the magnificence of the visions we behold, we always must remain mindful of our ocean. Always we need constantly to seek out water and the salts required to keep our oceans in balance.

We envelop our mini ocean in a thin layer of dead tissue to prevent its salty fluids leaking out and evaporating in the atmosphere – an excruciating death. We stiffen the bundle with a calcium frame bound together by flexible muscles to enable movement and we control it using an exquisite electro-chemical network in which our salt waters are the conductors. (Click here for a fun experiment showing how, relatively speaking, salt and water only conduct when they are combined.)

Water constitutes over half of our body. 82% of our blood and 85% of our brains are water. We use little sacs of saline fluid as lenses to focus light and transform sound waves so we can see and hear the sights and sounds of our environment. Indeed our ear structures are vestigial fish gills.

No matter where we live on Earth, we remain completely dependent on the greater oceans. Covering 70% of Earth’s surface, they act as giant heat sinks (stores) and thermal conveyor belts. They modify global temperatures and enable life on the land, as we know it.

The oceans are also massive carbon sinks and some call them  “sleeping giants’ in the current debate about the impact on our climate of human emissions of carbon. Plants are net emitters of carbon dioxide over the centuries. Without the unique storage capacity of our oceans, our atmosphere would contain significant extra quantities of our carbon emissions:

Human carbon emissions using up oceans' absorption capacity.
The first comprehensive study of the ocean storage of carbon dioxide derived from human activities - anthropogenic CO2 - determined that the oceans have taken up some 118 billion metric tons of this carbon dioxide between 1800 and 1994.

Human activities can now alter the great thermal balances that sustain us and we do so at our peril. It is probably most unwise to continue to rely on the ability of the oceans to continue absorb our carbon emissions. As the oceans warm their ability to retain CO2 reduces.

There is another little known concern:

“When CO2 gas dissolves into the ocean it produces carbonic acid, which is corrosive to shells of marine organisms and can interfere with the oxygen supply.

We also depend on the oceans as a food source. This last generation of humans has depleted 90% of all the large fish (the top tier) in our oceans. And whereas we used a calorie of energy to catch one calorie of fish in 1970, we now need to use 20 calories to catch one calorie. We obtain those calories almost entirely from burning Earth’s rapidly depleting oil reserves.

In summary, we are the oceans. Every cell in us resonates with its waves. Its sounds and silences echo in the depths of our spirits. We live trace existences in which we are part of the finally balanced cycles of ocean evaporation and condensation. The day the oceans cease cycling through us we evaporate. Awareness of the ocean within enables us to feel wonder and awe at life.

All this is why I am passionate to communicate the ocean to our children and why I am opposed to the proposal to site the Wellington Marine Education Centre or The Aquarium of New Zealand – Te Moana Tamariki at Te Raekaihau Point. When I first learned of the proposal it seemed a dream come true and I immediately imagined working at the Centre in some capacity into my old age. However as I have explored the implications of the proposals I have come to the sad conclusion the proposal will fail to achieve its education objectives. My involvement would most probably contribute to the further destruction of ocean balances that sustain us and needlessly increase the risk of “Oil-Gas Wars.”

In summary: The Marine Education Centre is a great idea but Te Raekaihau Point is the wrong place! A much better place is the Maranui site at the trolley bus terminus.

Details of current proposal for the new marine education centre.

The Wellington Marine Conservation Trust website contains detailed rationales and illustrations of the planned website at Te Raekaihau Point on the South Coast of Wellington City.

System of Analysis.

I apply a five-level analysis of the impact of a use of a form of energy. 

  • Planning and Construction,
  • Maintenance and Disposal,
  • Transport demands
  • “Hidden curriculum” in design
  • Leverage off sponsorship

This system of analysis is particularly relevant to measuring the impact of Environmental Education resources as these have an inordinate impact on society’s sensibility. Some of the most potent impacts of a resource can result from the activities of corporations leveraging their short-term interests off the resource. The fact that some of their levels of impact are difficult to measure is a reflection of their less tangible nature and an institutional lack of will to research these areas of human activity.

Analysis of Te Raekaihau Point

Energy used in planning, consultation and construction. 
Includes manufacture and in transport of materials and all persons. 

The proposal involves the excavation of the reef rock and the construction of a car park and a building with a 2 million dollar underwater viewing wall. The site is exposed to high risk of wave “events” and this places additional engineering demands. See a photo of recent erosion of a nearby cliff.

Energy used during the lifetime of resource:
Includes disposal of resource, maintenance, fuel use and net electricity use.
(Note: The use of some energy forms may be difficult to measure. Examples are those sourced directly from the sun (windows for heating) and the wind (ventilation and cooling).

Elements of the construction will be subject to constant stress from chemical, wave and wind action. The proposal includes plans for a small wind turbine and solar heating. These will reduce demand for electricity generation using non-renewable fossil fuels.
Proximity to good sea water supplies reduces the demand for pumps.
The site requires extensive car parking facilities. These are expensive to maintain in New Zealand because of our relatively high levels of UV radiation. Maintenance will be increasingly expensive to maintain in the Post Cheap Oil-Gas Age.

Dislocation from a mass public transport will reduce the viability of the centre and result in lower energy efficiency levels.

Energy used in direct transportation for duration of resource:
Includes communication and transport costs in linking audience to resource.

The proposal primarily is to move people to the resource rather than the resource to the people.

The proposed site is 10-20 minutes walk to the nearest regular public transport. The Roaring Forties are funneled through the Cook Strait and access routes are also fully exposed to fronts from the southern oceans. The pedestrian is often exposed often to high winds. These form a major to severe, barrier to the elderly, infirm and young children. Usually rain is accompanied by wind and the pedestrian will have to extensive rain gear if they are not to risk getting sodden. Non-local visitors will be very often dependent on dedicated bus services or private vehicles because of the highly variable nature of coastal weather. As a result the site will generate a significant demand for fossil fuel consumption.

Its isolation from regular public transport will result in additional energy demands that will be greater than its construction and direct operating costs. Some estimates suggest a public building not served by mass public transport systems uses three times the energy efficient of a building that is served by such systems.

Energy use promoted by teaching curriculum inherent in the resource type, design and processes.
Includes messages inherent in selection of technology, type of construction and modus operandi.

Major elements of any education curriculum are the type of resource, its physical layout and its management structure. This is sometimes called “the hidden curriculum”. The formal lesson activities are the overt curriculum. The “hidden curriculum” is often the dominant educative force. A key lesson of the proposed education centre is its situation on a unique and rare coastal reserve by the capital city of New Zealand

Any authorised use of the reserve sends profound messages about the value the Wellington region places on such assets. In this case, the messages and lessons are highly leveraged because the centre is being promoted as a prime national education resource.

The investment in a car-dependent resource, continuing the existence of car parks on the Point and promoting their use sends a profound message that oil is a cheap resource that can be used with abandon and the impact of carbon emissions on the oceans is immaterial. It ignores the reality that we have entered the Post Cheap Oil-Gas Age and need to adapt to this reality by adopting new ways of thinking, acting and communicating. The “cheap oil” lesson is further reinforced by the needless physical disconnect with mass public transport systems and cognitive disconnect from society. Lessons are not limited to visitors. The curriculum inherent in the use and layout of the coastal reserve is the main lesson for non-visitors viewing the centre.

Energy use leveraged off sponsorship for duration of resource.
Corporate sponsorship of an education resource can result in political and legislative frameworks that promote the use of particular forms of energy. A small resource can leverage very large uses of a resource and stifle energy efficiency practice. This use may generate the largest impact on energy use.

The advent of the Post Cheap Oil-Gas Age and the need to minimise risk from unwanted impacts from our carbon emissions means we have to undergo a major review of our use of energy forms. Some sectors eg the fossil fuel sector and the Bulk-electricity sector (including the Nuclear industry) have vested interests in obscuring the need for such a review. A major mechanism they use to obscure the impact of their activities on the environment is the sponsorship of selected Environmental Education resources.

Corporations can control research and education programmes by careful selection of the Environmental Education resources they support. This is an effective way of diverting public attention from the negative impact of their corporate activities. They are also able to leverage their PR investments off their association with reputable resources. In PR speak; this is called investment in “damage control”.  Other names for it include Spin and Greenwash.

Sponsors of the proposed Wellington Marine Education Centre include the Wellington City Council, the Wellington International Airport Ltd (WIAL)  and the StageCoach bus company. One proposal is that StageCoach provides a bus service between the Airport Authority’s new “megashop” centre by the airport and the Marine Education Centre. This would, for instance, enable children to be transported to the Marine Centre while the parents shopped. This is part of a wider proposal that Stagecoach operate a special bus service linking key eco-tourist sites.

The Wellington City Council

The WCC primarily sees the Education Centre as a component of their strategy to promote eco-tourism in the region. Since the late 1980s, oil and Bulk-electricity industry interests, property speculators and a Chicago School Market ethos increasingly dominate the Council decisions. The main driver of its strategy is increasing tourist numbers, not environmental standards. I do not make this statement lightly.

Previous generations bequeathed on the city a world-class electricity system with the potential to provide cutting-edge, environmentally friendly and sustainable uses of electricity in the Post Cheap Oil-Gas Age. In the 1990s the WCC ignored the majority of public opinion and transferred control of the system to TransAlta, a company based in North America (Calgary, Canada). In doing so the WCC proves it has little comprehension of democracy and civic processes.

It also proves it has no concern for the environment. TransAlta immediately dismantled local energy efficiency initiatives as they ran counter to its electricity and Gas sales strategy. TransAlta also   built Gas-fired electricity generators to supply its customers. This wasteful and inefficient process resulted in the rapid depletion of New Zealand’s largest Natural Gas field.

Smart” grids that enable communities to maximise distributed generation and minimise Bulk-electricity demand are essential to sound environmental practice. Since about 1988 Wellington City Councils have adopted a policy that says such concerns are not core activities for the Council and it has destroyed most of our potential to adopt these options.

This is just one of a pattern of major decisions revealing the Council’s lack of respect for our heritage and the environment. The pattern reveals a systematic lack of understanding and commitment to energy efficiency practice.

Previous generations bequeathed on the city the best public transport system in New Zealand, including an extensive trolley bus network. In the 1990s, the WCC declared public transport is not a “core business” and transferred the system to a company based in Europe. But for the activities of a couple of very brave and selfless individuals the trolley bus system would have been dismantled a decade ago when diesel prices were unsustainably low. While the Council was forced to retain the trolley bus system it still refuses to invest upgrades of the system.

The statement that the WCC is dominated by speculative sectors with little concern for community and environment values is further supported by commentary on the photo essay of the central business district. Note the six-lane motorway gutting the people from their harbour and how lifeless the buildings facing the waterfront are. A key waterfront building constructed by the Council about 1990 is now the headquarters of a major oil company.

Wellington is based in a very beautiful natural environment that enables its citizens to have very privileged lifestyles. The city’s blessed status is despite of and not because of the activities of recent Councils. It is the result of the concern and sacrifice of remarkable, committed and caring members of the public. This is especially true of its trolley bus system and the waterfront.

The argument that proceeds from the “sale” of Capital Power enabled improvements in sewerage disposal and an improvement in ocean quality is profoundly flawed. Loss of dividends, the “fire sale” sale price and the loss of control of the local electricity/communication grid and other vital infrastructure are resulting in activities that generate increased risks to the ocean balances that sustain us. This is because our invisible pollution from fossil fuel generated electricity and transport has increased dramatically. Wellington’s carbon dioxide emissions have risen steeply since 1988 and these are contributing to the acidification of the oceans. They also alter thermal balances.

In short, the Wellington City Council cannot be trusted to protect Te Raekaihau Point and has shown repeatedly it will betray the trust of previous generations. Trust structures only survive when society values, protects and nurture them. Sadly the Council lacks this culture.

There is a high degree of risk that “economic” and other considerations in the Post Cheap Oil-Gas Age will result in the control of the Wellington Marine Education Centre being transferred to private corporate interests with no concern for the oceans. The centre will become a purely commercial entertainment operation attempting to capitalize on the mass tourism market.

The Wellington International Airport Ltd

Wellington International Airport Litd (WIAL) is part owned by the Wellington City Council (34%). Airlines are the fastest growing source of carbon emissions. Unlike other forms of transport, they are exempt from paying for their local pollution, health costs, transport taxes and from Kyoto provisions.  Air travelers are heavily subsidised by the bulk of the world’s population. In particular they make border control and quarantine measures difficult to implement and everyone, especially the poor, are put at heightened risk of pandemics.

Aerial photos of Wellington Airport reveal how WIAL has literally destroyed Lyall Bay on the SouthCoast. The landmass and Kilbirnie people were protected by naturally occurring 40-foot sand dunes and these are constantly being destroyed by a combination of WIAL and Wellington City Council activities.


In short the WIAL has a continuing major negative impact on the SouthCoast, on the oceans and its activities in the stratosphere increase our risks from Human-induced Climate Change.

StageCoach New Zealand Ltd

The decision of the Wellington City Council to transfer its control of Wellington’s public transport system to StageCoach severely restricted the city’s ability to adopt efficient, mass transport systems such as an integrated light rail system. StageCoach is now taking an increased interest in the trolley bus system. This is helpful in the Post Cheap Oil-Gas Age as the system can be powered using the large capacity of the region to generate electricity using windpower. However the trolley bus grid continues to exist despite and not because of Stagecoach. Bus schedules are often unreliable and make the use of mass transport difficult. The company has failed to invest in the smart technology required to promote mass use of public transport. It is part of a wider framework that has resulted in the halving of rail use in Wellington since 1988.

In summary, the sponsorship proposals will enhance the unsustainable nature of current use of fuels and increase environmental damage.

Alternative proposal and Analysis

There are a number of alternative sites on the SouthCoast. Many of them have the same inefficiencies in that they are not proximate to mass public transport and involve encroaching coastal reserves. I will now apply the same analysis to siting the Centre at the disused council depot site of Maranui. 


Energy used in planning, consultation and construction. 
Includes manufacture and in transport of materials and all persons. 

The proposal avoids the need to excavate the foreshore rock and does not involve the construction and maintenance of an underwater viewing wall (See transport energy use below). The site contains industrial contaminants which is a reason given against its use. However this is not sufficient reason – indeed those who argue it cannot be used for an aquarium centre also suggest its intended is for luxury flats. The area is much less vulnerable to “wave events”. There will be additional costs constructing the salt water supply for the aquarium. Direct access to public transport means relatively little provision for carparking is required. There is ample parking adjacent to the number 12 route through Kilbirnie.

Energy used during the lifetime of resource:
Includes disposal of resource, maintenance, fuel use and net electricity use.
(Note: Some energy form uses may be difficult to measure as they may be sourced directly from the sun (windows for heating) and the wind (ventilation and cooling).

This site is higher and more sheltered from “wave events”. It is also more sheltered from the wind. This reduces maintenance costs. However it also reduces the capacity of the building to generate capacity from solar and wind sources. At the same time the proximity of the hill means there is greater generation potential. There will be additional costs pumping salt water for the aquarium. Reduced demand for dedicated car parking will have increasing benefits as oil and Gas based products become more expensive. The direct link to a public transport system will increase patronage in the Post Cheap Oil-Gas Age as access to non-linked alternative resources deteriorates. Enhanced access and increased patronage will result in the education resource becoming increasingly energy efficient.

Energy used in direct transportation for duration of resource:
Includes communication and transport costs in linking audience to resource.

The site is adjacent to the terminus of the trolley bus system. Buses depart every ten minutes during the week and every 15 minutes on the weekend. The Lyall Bay-Karori route (no 12) is the cream of the city’s routes. As the Post Cheap Oil-Gas Age impacts more fully increased patronage will result in demand for even more frequent services. A number of eco-tourist sites are adjacent (within two blocks) to the route including the waterfront and Te Papa, the Botanical Gardens and the Karori Wildlife Reserve. Note the number 23 route is short walk down Hungerford Road. This route, which at present terminates at HoughtonBay, can be adjusted to serve either proposed Centre site. Eco-tourist sites adjacent to the 23 routes include the Wellington City Zoo, the waterfront, the top of the Botanical gardens, Karori Wildlife Reserve and the Otari Reserve (Wilton Bush).

Incorporating the Marine Education Centre into the mass transport system reduces fuel consumption considerably. It future proofs the Centre against “oil shocks” and promotes the efficient use of transport. The energy required to transport a visitor to and from the Centre at this site may be as little as 1% of that required to transport a visitor to and from the remote Te Raekaihau Point site.

Energy use promoted by teaching curriculum inherent in the resource type, design and processes.
Includes messages inherent in selection of technology, type of construction and modus operandi.

The use of mass public transport to deliver visitors to the centre sends a raft of very powerful messages. A great principle of education is that it should be inclusive. This includes all those people who do not wish to use or are unable to use private vehicles.

The use of this unique site for education and tourism purposes rather than luxury flats is another powerful signal of the city’s priorities. It teaches that it is possible to adapt to the Post Cheap Oil-Gas Age. It preserves both this and Te Raekaihau Point for appropriate community use.

The money saved not constructing a viewing wall of a kelp forest can be used for alternative technology. Check out the Monterey Bay Cam site to see the possibilities for viewing kelp and sharks. It is worth noting that in many weather conditions visibility is very limited by wave actions on the South Coast. 

 The Marine Education Centre could be become a leader in developing this technology. There are now 6.4 billion humans and every human’s activities impacts on the ocean in some way. The Centre could make use of wide-screen technology, sonic recordings and broadcast underwater ocean life in the Cook Strait on the web. It could also link to other sites around the world to show the variety of terrains and underwater life.

The messages delivered by such a use of resources is that the Centre acknowledges the need to:

·         Conserve valuable resources,

·         Reduce the negative impacts of human activity on the environment,

·         Reconnect Earth’s 6.5 billion human mini-oceans to their greater oceans

·         To observe in non-invasive way.

I acknowledge that electronic-based experiences have their limitations. Experiences of the ocean from insulated rooms also have their limitations. One of the premises of the Wellington Marine Education Centre is that it allows sustainable hands-on experiences of Cook Strait rock pool life in a controlled environment and thus protects the rock pools from the impact of tens of thousands of children exploring them. Both sites offer this protection of shore life equally.

The site I propose has a significant added advantage. Unlike the Te Raekaihau Point site, there is no barrier between the Maranui site and the hill. The hill offers visitors a unique and inspiring experience of the interaction of the land, the atmosphere and the oceans on Cook Strait. This proximity enables the experience of the aquarium to be supplemented by invigorating and educative walks through coastal flora.

Energy use leveraged off sponsorship for duration of resource.
Corporate sponsorship of an education resource can result in political and legislative frameworks that promote the use of particular forms of energy. A small resource can leverage very large uses of a resource and stifle energy efficiency practice. This use may generate the largest impact on energy use.

Either site can generate massive impacts on energy efficiency practice through leveraging of sponsorship. A company such as StageCoach could use the Maranui site to promote the use of mass public transport system in general and improve regional energy efficiency. The improvement depends on how StageCoach invests its profits and the degree to which it invests in alternatives to fossil fuel based systems. Through a series of decision the WCC has given the company  an effective  monopoly of city public transport. Hence it is in a powerful decision to dictate planning policy.

General Comments

The architect’s drawings of the proposal are very misleading. The proposed building could well be used more as an entertainment centre than an educational centre. This is because entry fees to the aquarium are high and many visitors will make the restaurant their destination. The proposal requires 200,000 visitors a year to be viable. Compare the impact on the foreshore of the vehicles of visitors to The Bach (click) This restaurant is a much smaller business than the proposal for Te Raekaihau Point. Both have one thing in common – neither is served by regular public transport.

Note: The new coffee bar in the surf club buildings on LyallBay has generated a ten-fold increase in cars parked on the foreshore. This is on the no 12 trolley bus route.

Re the quote on  Ian Athfield

Ian, who leads the design team, was last year awarded the New Zealand Institute of Architects' highest honour, the 2004 Gold Medal. His practice has won more than 60 national and international awards, including 13 NZIA Supreme Awards.

The architect, Ian Athfield, is an award-winning artist. He created the WellingtonCity’s iconic Civic Square, a place I admire and am proud to take visitors to the city to. However the creation does not work to the extent that it is not a civic area, a place where people meet. Over a two-year period I did an informal survey of patronage on my random visits there. It was rare to count more than 16 people whereas nearby streets contained hundreds of people. The average number was probably closer to 6. I did the survey, as I knew the Mayor of Christchurch, Garry Moore wished to invest in Ian to upgrade Christchurch Square. I have not seen the product of this collaboration but National Radio broadcast interviews with local taxi drivers. They all felt the investment had failed and one described it as the Mooreseleum. (Definition: Mausoleum- a large stately tomb) I very much appreciate Ian’s public spirit. I have yet to see serious evidence that his work acts as a driving force for energy efficiency practice and providing a sustainable vision for the region in the Post Cheap Oil-Gas Age.

Re the quote on on Wellington’s Tenth’s Trust. A cultural impact assessment by Wellington’s Tenth’s Trust commented that “the building is one of the few structures that has natural affinity with its environment. The centre is located in this site because of its locality and not despite its locality”.

I have observed recent additions to Wellington’s landscape by the Trust. In particular I am aware of their constructions in Taranaki Street and Adelaide Road. Neither reveals an awareness of energy efficiency principles or a sustainable vision for the region in the Post Cheap Oil-Gas Age. Indeed the latter is a profound example of design driven by the oil industry. The north of each dwelling is devoted to garages. In winter the buildings can generate light and heating from early morning and late afternoon sun only.


I believe there is a profound need for a marine education centre on the South Coast. I believe Wellington has the resources to provide inspiring insights into how our oceans work. If we are to make a sustainable contribution to global awareness then we must employ cutting edge technology and shape the resource so that its resonates in the Post Cheap Oil-Gas Age. We can do this. We can generate the hope and wisdom that enables humanity to face the challenges of this new age and enter the Great Conservation Age and the Age of Enlightenment.

The lessons inherent in the disconnect of Te Raekaihau Point from mass public transport mean there is a considerable degree of risk that the Marine Education Centre will fail to meet its objectives. By contrast, Maranui offers far greater opportunities for meeting the challenge that face all us billions of little human oceans. It connects us to a sustainable future in metaphor and in reality.

Additional Material June 2006

A definition of Environmental Education and why the Wellington Marine Conservation Trust cannot justify its education claims.

The Wellington Marine Conservation Trust has heavily promoted this proposal for a Tourist Aquarium Industry on Te Raekaihau Point as an Environmental Education centre. In particular, its advocates (some of them paid for by unnamed sponsors) have approached a wide section of the public and promoted the proposed industry as a vital education resource for their children while omitting to tell people that it is fundamentally a commercial entertainment enterprise. In the week after I made my appearance before the Commissioners and near the end of their hearings the Dominion Post broadsheet concluded that approval would be given because the City Planner is convinced of the educational value of the proposal.

I have been a member of the New Zealand Association for Environmental Education for some years and attended numerous meetings and two of its three National Conferences. I know of no scientific evidence that the City Planner can base such a conviction on and predicted he had none. The following correspondence shows my prediction was correct and my associated research shows there is not the expertise in the New Zealand Environmental Education industry to examine the impact of the Trust proposal. We are almost 100% safe to assume that the proposal is not underpinned by serious research better than my own analysis.

I rang the City Planner and he more or less confirmed my suspicion that the City Council view was not based on scientific evidence. Two things also became clear. The Planner(s) assume mass air travel is sustainable and that an Environmental Education resource works because its proponents are passionate about the environment. The following correspondence was my attempt to show each is assumption is high risk. Indeed a poorly planned resource, such as this proposal for Te Raekaihau Point (Princess Bay) can do considerable damage.

Read here my correspondence (March 22, 2006) with the City Planner following our phone conversation and his reply. It is followed by my correspondence in which I show how the Trust’s education claims have no substance:


Thanks Dave, I’ll respond once I’ve had time to make sense of it all.




Blair Mather

Strategy and Planning Directorate

Wellington City Council


From: Dave McArthur []
Sent: Wednesday, March 22, 2006 10:51 AM
To: Blair Mather
Subject: WMEC education documents


Hi Blair

Following up on my inquiry re the statement in the DomPost that the city planner is going to approve the proposal to build a large building on what would be coastal reserve (if the Council had the required sense of stewardship). It suggested his decision was based on educational reasons. 

As will be apparent from my submission I have a strong interest in the evaluation of the total energy use generated by environmental education resources. You may be interested to learn that I developed the system of analysis after experiencing how NGC worked to pull the rug on a local world leading education programme (Energy Action) that had be created with the support of the WCC (Capital Power) in the 1990s. This programme taught children in most simple way how to calculate how their use of an electricity switch affected CO2 balances in the atmosphere. This was not something NGC with its Gas and Bulk-electricity interests wished to happen, as it is a major carbon emitter.  Instead NGC stalled the programme and diverted those funds into sponsorship of the Karori WildLife Centre and the Symphonia - activities that gain good will while not affecting their essential interest. I built on work now being done by architects/engineers where they calculate the energy use promoted by situation of a building.   I have heard analysis that suggests that a building based a couple of blocks off a mass transit route uses up to three times as much energy during its lifetime as one based on the mass transit route. 

I am most interested to view the education material the city planner has based his decision on. Could you please forward me links to it?

In our phone discussion we briefly discussed the long-term prospects of air travel and I mentioned I did not explain this very clearly to the commissioners.

There is a growing awareness of the hitherto unmeasured energy costs of ecotourism and its wider impact on the environment. This is seen in European moves to remove subsidies to airlines and allocate border control costs onto travellers. The moves take the form of formulating legislation that brings airlines into the same tax and pollution regimes as all other industries. At present airlines are exempt from Kyoto, carbon taxes, transport taxes, pollution restrictions etc.  Some calculations suggest that airline emissions have a thermal forcing of 2.7 on the atmosphere. When the air industry was closed down after 9/11 some estimates suggested the average temperature across the US was 1 degree cooler than normal (flight) conditions.  A critical aspect is that small changes at the stratosphere level can have a relatively large impact. Low clouds tend to cool Earths surface while high clouds tend to warm it.  As a matter of interest, those thin wee vapour lines we see are actually some kilometers wide.

It is eminently possible that airlines could become a relic of the days when carbon emissions did not matter and sweet oil was plentiful and very very cheap. The SARs outbreak showed how quickly the system can be grounded and it impact was greater than that of war on Asian economies.  In this context it is prudent to begin focussing on ship based trade including for tourism. It is more energy efficient, it allows for greater border control and the burden of disease costs are more carried by the traveller rather than the destination country. Airlines are by far the fastest growing source of carbon emissions. If recent calculations are correct and cement is a neutral emitter then the 12% of global emissions attributed to its manufacture may indicate the air industry impact is underestimated.


Sample random links done on a quick search this moment,12188,1407438,00.html

Airlines warn of fuel tax meltdown

Ashley Seager
Monday February 7, 2005
The Guardian

Airlines reacted furiously yesterday to moves by European governments to slap a tax on aviation fuel, with some in the industry warning that a third of European airlines would be forced out of business within a year.

Environmentalists, however, said a tax on jet fuel - which is unique among major fuels not to carry any duty - was long overdue and the only way that Europe could have any hope of meeting its carbon emissions targets.

….There are worse pollution problems. But aircraft are responsible for 3.5 percent of all human-caused global warming, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Though jets are ever more efficient, and plans are in place for a high-tech system to uncrowd the skies, a 1999 IPCC report shows aviation’s impact on global warming could explode. One report scenario shows a 600 percent jump.

Table 1           ICAO Inventory of Environmental Impacts

Table 2       Travel Impact Summary

The Coastal Post - April, 1997

Aircraft Are Screwing Up The Atmosphere?


…….Another Surprise

Surprisingly, S. Fred Singer, a prominent "ozone skeptic" (often quoted by Rush Limbaugh dittoheads) presented a paper arguing that the steady increase in air traffic over the last twenty years might be responsible for the nighttime warming occurring across North America.

Singer presented a study by another scientist of satellite measurements of atmospheric temperatures over the past 18 years showing an overall small negative trend-with the exception of the United States which shows a warming of .3 degrees C per decade. This warming occurs at similar latitudes where continuous growth in commercial air traffic is occurring. These flights burn millions of tons of fuel directly in the "clean" areas of the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere.

High altitude cirrus clouds are produced by contrails from air traffic, just how many is the problem.These clouds reflect heat up or down and can cool and warm depending on their thickness. Adding up the pluses and minus, aircraft induced clouds were estimated to have warmed the atmosphere significantly, mostly during the night time hours…

Measurements by German scientists from aircraft found layers of soot in seemingly natural cirrus clouds suggesting that it might be incorrect to call such clouds "natural". One scientist said that one might reasonably conclude that cloud cover over Germany had increased by as much as 10 percent.

………Four other notes about how air travels disrupts the climate:

1. Air travel destroys good ozone, creates bad ozone. In the stratosphere—at altitudes where many military and supersonic jets fly—aircraft pollution destroys ozone. That’s a problem because ozone in the stratosphere is a good thing. It shields the Earth from harmful ultraviolet radiation. In the upper troposphere, at altitudes where most commercial jets fly—aircraft pollution creates ozone. That’s a problem because ozone in the upper troposphere is a bad thing. It’s a potent, though short-lived, climate-changing greenhouse gas.

2. Military aircraft use more fuel apiece than civilian aircraft. A decade ago, military aircraft were one fourth as numerous as civilian aircraft worldwide, yet they consumed roughly one third as much fuel. Furthermore, military jets, with their high performance requirements, produce more climate-changing pollutants, especially nitrogen oxides.

3. Airplanes’ contrails may also play a role in climate change. Contrails are high-altitude vapor trails. They form when water vapor in the atmosphere condenses and freezes around tiny, cooled particles of engine exhaust.

The three-day grounding of all American air traffic after September 11, 2001 created a natural experiment for studying contrails’ effects. Researchers discovered that the absence of contrails expanded the difference between daytime and nighttime temperatures by a full degree Celsius, compared with the average of the last three decades. The difference was even greater in Cascadia and other heavy-air-traffic, mid-latitude regions (see endnote 5). Apparently, contrails dampen natural temperature variations.

Environmental Risk of Supersonic Jets Probed

By William J. Cromie  Gazette Staff

When a high-flying spy plane dove through the exhaust of a

Concorde supersonic jet flying tourists around the world, it produced a scientific surprise. The exhaust contained an unexpectedly high number of particles, a fact that bears on the protective ozone umbrella over our heads and on global warming.


I can well imagine how a world without mass airline transit is inconceivable to you. I date from the days when it took me a month to travel to Europe and air travel was unthinkable for most New Zealanders. Now I find air travel is unthinkable for me again and I do not fly anymore because of resource, social (war, famine) and environmental considerations. However the world went on before and can go on again with out mass air travel. Those that prosper will be those who have adapted in anticipation and sadly I see no evidence that the WCC is future proofing the region. I would be very hesitant about including air-based tourism in any calculations of the viability of the WMEC. At the same time I would be very careful to include air-based tourism in your calculations of the building’s education outputs – especially with regard to energy form conservation; atmospheric-ocean balances and interchanges; and civic responsibility in a “carbon restrained” era. 

I also mentioned how my confused delivery meant I did not discuss issues of stewardship well. As mentioned I find public speaking difficult and the system whereby someone else across the room manipulated my presentation was beyond my skills. 

 On my way to the hearing I had spent time at Waitangi Park. The city of Wellington was bequeathed an amazing resource last decade in the old Herd St Post Office just as Christchurch City was in 1972 when it was bequeathed the old university site. In both case the resource was set beside or amid city parks and beside their museums. Both cities faced the same pressures to convert their resources into luxury flats. Christchurch council respected the will of its citizens and converted it into a thriving arts and crafts centre that linked its city heart to its arts, crafts, heritage and parks.  Wellington City does not have this sense of stewardship and the instead of converting the Herd St Post Office into a palace of local arts and crafts to supplement Te Papa and its surrounding park it gave it away to developers of luxury flats. As a result the local arts scene is diminished even further, Te Papa is isolated, the surrounding parks are given to the mercy of the weather and the building now stands as some sort of monstrosity wall between the people and their city and harbour.

The recent Jack Ilot Green decision is also an example of lack of stewardship.  The construction of the music school on the site was a unique opportunity to future-proof the city by incorporating in the design the capacity to provide a rail station for the light rail that must run up Jervois Quay if the city is to be sustainable in the Post Cheap Oil –Gas Age and enjoy the Great Electric-Solar Age. This development of the Green plus the WMEC proposal plus the Christchurch square redesign reveals that the architect of all these has little sense of place and history. He designs for a world that is built on the myth of everlasting cheap oil.

I also think I failed to mention we have to educate for the welfare of calcium based creatures of the oceans. The use of fossil fuel rather than electricity to teach the message works to increase acidification of the oceans and puts all these creatures at serious risk. They may be saved by the ocean warming up sufficiently that it begins releasing its vast stores of carbon dioxide – in which case we can expect massive crop failure, severe weather events etc. 

I also was going to make a brief mention that the use of the mass transit system teaches a very different message than the use of customised “ecotourism” buses as has been proposed. The latter is a particularly strong promotion of ethos and messages of the ecotourist- fossil fuel sector. 

I look forward to seeing the planner’s education evidence. At present the strong indications are that the design and siting of the national education resource will generate education outcomes contrary to its objectives. I am grateful to the council that they decided not to design the city around the car race. That saved me years of protests. However sadly I now face the prospect of spending my Sunday afternoons in my retirement with a placard outside the proposed WMEC protesting its message. Also developing my education website around this local resource.  I would far rather have been devoting myself to volunteering to be a guide or a tank cleaner or something useful.

 All the best and thanks for info

Dave McArthur


Energy is Eternal Delight -William Blake.
Join the journey of Bonus Joules at

(in search of sustainable images of energy.)


On March 27 2006 I wrote to the City Planner at the Wellington City Council:


I have just received an interesting question re the proposed Marine Education Centre:


“I also have concerns about the education side of things, and the mixed
messages we are giving students about the size and scale of their
experience.  I also question how a Trust that claims to be about EE has
no EE expertise on it??!!”


Is this last statement true and if not, who is the Environmental Education expert on the Trust? This is a very important question as there are as yet very few, if any, real experts in New Zealand.


Thanks for response




On March 27 2006 he replied:

Hi David,


It is my understanding that the responsibility for this falls on Dr Victor Anderlini. Dr Anderlini has been a practicing marine scientist for 25 years, For further information on this aspect I will refer you to the current details of the Centre’s School Programme for 2005, the website address is as follows:




Blair Mather


On the 21 April 2006 I wrote the following to the City Planner this draft research. Note, it does not make clear as I would like my respect and admiration for the passion and dedication of some Wellington Marine Conservation Trust members such as Victor and Judy and nor does it detail how I believe unsustainable commercial interests exploit and abuse their passion. The Planner’s response first:


Hi Dave,


Thank you for the background information, it makes for interesting reading and assists me greatly in understanding the basis of your submission.

As you are aware a new hearing date has been scheduled and I understand that you will again be presenting. I look forward to you being able to present your ideas and opinions in and effective manner. I’m sure that your viewpoint will be helpful in understanding the associated effects that a proposed marine education centre would have, not only the coastal environment but on the wider global environment.


Blair Mather 


Hello Blair

I have had the reflections pasted below sitting around for a couple of weeks and have not had time to further research or revise it into a more intelligent form. nor have I had time to format it onto my website resource evaluating the WMEC proposal and options.

So I will just flick it to you as in the hope that it will assist your reflections on evaluating the educational impacts of the proposed centre on Te Raekaihau Point…..

In an attempt to clear any confusion about what an Environmental Education expert is I have briefly researched definitions of the discipline.

It is interesting to observe  that no one appears to have attempted to create a wiki definition of environmental education (Altavista and Google) and top of the search list for both  engines is a definition of sustainability. This definition is valuable to this discussion because it does describe what should be the ultimate objective of Environmental Education industry and .


Sustainability is a systemic concept, relating to the continuity of economic, social, institutional and environmental aspects of human society. It is intended to be a means of configuring civilization and human activity so that society, its members and its economies are able to meet their needs and express their greatest potential in the present, while preserving biodiversity and natural ecosystems, and planning and acting for the ability to maintain these ideals in a very long term. Sustainability affects every level of organization, from the local neighborhood to the entire planet.


Definitions of Environmental Education include


SECTION 1: What is environmental education (EE)?

A brief look at the history of EE (focused primarily on EE in the United States). While there is no consensus on the standard definition of environmental education, several working definitions have been influential in the development of EE programs.


*The Belgrade Charter was further revised in 1977 at the UNESCO-UNEP Intergovernmental Conference on EE in Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia. The basic aim of EE was: succeed in making individuals and communities understand the complex nature of the natural and built environments resulting from the interaction of their physical, biological, social, economic, and cultural aspects, and acquire the knowledge, values, attitudes, and practical skills to participate in a responsible and effective way in anticipating and solving environmental problems, and in the management of the quality of the environment (92).;jsessionid=D0xZWYvEE3J2z1xIsyPCmfq5lxwLXnr9YbcTwhmqxUgkPRNVxvoh!258856059

The Definition of Environmental Education

Teaching about the natural and built environment provides a real-world context for learning by linking the classroom to the students' community. Students are engaged in hands-on, active learning that increases their knowledge and awareness about the environment. Because environmental education encourages inquiry and investigation, students develop critical thinking, problem-solving, and effective decision-making skills. Environmentally literate students become citizens who are able to weigh various sides of an environmental issue and make responsible decisions as individuals and as members of their community. Quality, standards-based environmental education improves everyday life by protecting human health and encouraging stewardship of natural resources.

Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Office of Environmental Education. Retrieved August 1, 2003, from's_EE2.htm

Definition and Principles of Environmental Education:

According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), environmental education  (EE) is:

"... the process of recognizing values and clarifying concepts in order to develop skills and attitudes necessary to understand and appreciate the interrelatedness among men, his culture and his biophysical surroundings. EE also entails practice in decision-making and self-formulation of a code of behaviour about issues concerning environmental quality. International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN; 1971)

The 1977 Tbilisi Conference, which followed soon after the launch of the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), is known to have spearheaded clarification on the nature of environmental education. This conference resulted in a declaration which listed seven directive principles for environmental education (EE) programmes. These are summarized as follows:

EE is a lifelong educational process that occurs at all levels of education.

EE is about the interactions which occur in the natural, the built and social environment. It should lead to the understanding of how human interactions and political processes, together with the nature of socio-economic issues and the effect of these on environmental degradation or enhancement.

EE is for developing attitudes and value systems which lead to socio-economic improvement through positive social interactions and the maintenance and improvement of the natural and built environment.

EE aims to develop an individual's understanding, skills and the feelings of empowerment that are necessary for both positive behaviour towards the biophysical and social environment in everyday living, and for active participation in group efforts to find the optimal solutions for environmental problems.

EE requires a holistic and preferably interdisciplinary approach to teaching with opportunities for diverse learning experiences, but with particular emphasis on direct experiential learning in natural, built and social environments.     

Environmental education is therefore not only the concern of natural scientists, but draws from the tools and resources of a wide range of disciplines in order to demonstrate the root of current problems and suggest ways in which learners could either prevent or remedy these. 


Recently, and because of agreement that our environmental crises are the result of problems with modernity, educators have begun to move away from teaching approaches that stress 'wildlife experience' or 'nature study' (i.e. teaching merely about the scientific aspects of nature). Educators now prefer an approach that encourages learners to understand and transform problem environments. It is in this sense that we now prefer to speak of EE as education about and for the environment. Ten years ago EE would have been equated with the environmental sciences, a field which is dominated by the conventions and traditions of the scientific method. It is now seen as a holistic field that draws from the tools of both the social and natural sciences.  


Two things become apparent from my brief research of the topic.

“While there is no consensus on the standard definition of environmental education, several working definitions have been influential in the development of EE programs. “

“Recently, and because of agreement that our environmental crises are the result of problems with modernity, educators have begun to move away from teaching approaches that stress 'wildlife experience' or 'nature study' (i.e. teaching merely about the scientific aspects of nature). Educators now prefer an approach that encourages learners to understand and transform problem environments.”

In the context of these definitions the Environmental Industry is at very primitive level in New Zealand. We are as advanced as any country in “teaching approaches that stress 'wildlife experience' or 'nature study' (i.e. teaching merely about the scientific aspects of nature).”  I do not know what qualitative research there is of Dr Victor Anderlini’s teaching strategies. My observation is that their focus is on ‘nature study’. The design of the proposed Marine Education Centre suggests there is little focus on strategies that “lead to the understanding of how human interactions and political processes, together with the nature of socio-economic issues and the effect of these on environmental degradation or enhancement”.

There is a growing consensus that the greatest threat facing us is our use of carbon. We are burning carbon in the form of oil and Gas at rates that are unsustainable and our burning of carbon (oil,Gas, biomass and coal) is impacting negatively on the thermal balances of the atmosphere and the oceans that sustain us. It is also acidifying the oceans. Our biomass use is also distressing global soil reserves. Biomass use in private cars is set to exponentially increase the stress on soil and fresh water reserves. The air travel industry is the fastest growing and one of the most powerful agents in altering global thermal balances. Much of the justification for the Marine Centre is based on air-based tourism and land transport systems that use biomass sourced fuels on scale. 

The design and siting of the proposed Environmental Education resource dismisses the challenge created by our use of carbon and arguably promotes a worsening of the risks involved. This flaw threatens the sustainability of the Centre financially and it threatens the economic sustainability of the wider community. There is little recognition of the “human interactions and political processes” involved. Ultimately it threatens the balances of the oceans that sustain us.

I should make it clear at this point I am not questioning either the integrity or the passion or the love of Dr Anderlini or Judy Hutt for the oceans. Indeed I have witnessed Dr Andrelini teaching and he is inspiring in his passion and devotion to the welfare of ocean life. He is very gifted. 

However it is one thing to create inspiring and sustaining lessons. It is quite another thing to create a very large education resource that retains and communicates the vitality of the messages contained in his teaching. The difficulty is compound by the fact that the resource has a very large public face and will continue to do so for two hundred years. One thing does not necessarily translate to the other and political processes can conspire to completely reframe and pervert the original messages and intentions. Good intentions are not sufficient unto themselves and Environmental Education requires critical analysis of the impact of an education resource at every level.

You may find difficulty in finding the level of Environmental Education expertise in New Zealand to evaluate the full impacts of placing the proposed Marine Education Centre out on the Te Raikaihau Point where it is isolated from electrified mass-transit system in the Post Cheap Oil-Gas Age. 

The Environmental Education Industry in New Zealand exhibits only the lower levels of critical analysis. For instance its major product Enviroschools was deliberately designed to omit acknowledgement of the carbon issue and its contents reveal zero awareness of the  long-term impact of the “human interactions and political processes” surrounding our use of key symbols of the nature of energy and climate processes. I say this advisedly because I am aware of the politics surrounding its creation.

I will point out that while I believe our current use of carbon is a critical issue and is unsustainable, it is not the major issue. The major issue is the images we use to portray the nature of energy. Almost every statistic suggests they are promoting very high risk behaviour and our current civilisation has no future if they are retained. The Marine Education centre is based on symbol uses that confuse energy with the forms it takes. Hence its siting and design are based on the premise that the Cheap Oil-Gas Age will continue. The facts are that oil and Gas are not as bounteous as energy and their combustion does impact on the atmosphere and oceans..

That is why I propose the five levels of analysis in evaluating the potential impact of an Environmental Education resource. I used the Marine Education Centre to indicate how such an evaluation can be done within our current Cheap Oil-Gas Age in which combustion costs are assumed to be zero and a Post Cheap Oil-Gas Age  scenario in which costs are considered significant (the Hungerford Road option). In the latter Age either extraction costs become high in terms of intergenerational use of resources or high because of the perceived negative impacts on the atmosphere, the oceans and soil fertility. Both factors might mitigate to make their use very expensive indeed.

In this wider context last week’s Climate Change and Governance Conference probably failed its objectives as education resource. Serious research of the impact of its siting, exclusive nature, use of air travel and the lack of science underpinning public discussion would probable reveal it was counterproductive. 

Indeed if you examine most products of the New Zealand Environmental Industry you will find that they are deeply impacted by sponsorship by industry sector interests. They evidence little awareness of the potency of symbols and thus their educational impact is easily driven by sponsors. Most of these have been designed and promoted by Environmental Education experts in our Universities and agencies such as NGOs, Local Authorities,  the Climate Change Office, the Royal Society, EECA. The PCE,etc. There are Environmental Education resources that are very good at the 'wildlife experience' or 'nature study' that are not directly subject to sponsorship or gross abuse of key science symbols.  However these tend to act within a vacuum and lack links to the impact of a individuals gross activities. As always vacuums in our awareness make for inherent social and environmental instability. 

I do not claim to be an Environmental Education expert but then it is not really clear what Environmental Education is. I do know that there are no systems of analysis designed to evaluate the impact of New Zealand’s EE industry as a whole. Correlations between its stated objectives and key national statistics since 1987 are negative.

 My experience is that the resolution of any environmental issue is, at heart, a political process and involves awareness of all the political forces at play. This awareness in turn depends on comprehension of psychological processes at the primal level. That is why I focus on attempting to identify the political framework within which the Marine Education Centre proposal operates.

Chris Arcus , Team Leader, Curriculum, Teaching and Learning NZ Ministry of Education is probably in a good a position as anyone to point you to know what expertise is available in New Zealand to help you evaluate the Environmental Education impact of the proposed resource. He might know who best can help you ensure that the proposed Marine Educations Centre is analysed so that it operates in a holistic field that draws from the tools of both the social and natural sciences.” 

I was most interested when the submission before mine at the Commission questioned the education/research claims of the proposal. The person giving it had spoken to Victoria University and asked it they were proposing to do research at the Marine Education Centre. She was told the university has no intention of doing any research there. This is doubly relevant as the University is gearing itself to make marine research the basis of its Centre of Excellence.

I am well aware that Victoria University has major failings as an education institution. However I do believe it a matter of concern that prime research synergies are not built into the initial architecture of the Trust’s proposal.

As an aside, I believe that if the WCC planners are to retain public credibility they must publish a honest representation of what the Te Raikaihau Point will look like with 50-100 cars and coaches if the Centre is to operate in the carbon conditions and with the visitor numbers currently envisaged in the application before any further public consultation.

The existing representations of the proposed resource are deeply inaccurate and misleading and offer further testimony of the lack of Environmental Education expertise underpinning the Marine Education resource. It is very worrying if the Trust is unaware of or cannot communicate even this simple reality of the impact of human activity. 

The photos on my website  of the impact of the much smaller businesses of the Lyall Bay “coffee club” and the Bach give a truer indication of the scale of the visual pollution of the South Coast. Similarly I noted cars filled hundreds of meters of the waterfront near Kelly Tarlton’s Aquarium in Auckland on my visit there in January. There was no electric mass transport available to it. Unfortunately I forgot to take my camera with me to record the carbon use involved with the Auckland resource.


It would be extremely helpful if the city planners could publish their projections for carbon emissions and oil prices for the medium term too.

I will pop this onto my website with the alternative Marine Education Centre proposal when and if I get the time. It will be more readable there.


The Global Aquarium Industry


Aquarium dilemma

Copyright 2005 Toronto Star Newspapers, Ltd.
The Toronto Star

January 24, 2005 Monday


LENGTH: 1722 words

HEADLINE: Aquarium dilemma

BYLINE: Peter Gorrie, Toronto Star


How do you turn several thousand fish into one white elephant?

It's not a magician's trick.

Instead, it's the almost inevitable result if a public aquarium, such as the one proposed for Toronto's Exhibition Place, is built in the wrong place and in the wrong way.

Presto! A bright and shimmering attraction is transformed into a lumbering burden that has a ravenous appetite for cash and leaves piles of unsavoury problems in its wake.

Although Toronto's project is at the very early stages - private-sector proponents have until Feb. 25 to express interest - some aquarium experts suggest it's heading for trouble.

Aquariums are expensive to build and very costly to operate, they say. And, in the current climate where competition for entertainment spending is intense, they require certain things to succeed.

Three elements are key, says Deb Fassnacht, executive vice-president of the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago and a student of the industry.

They need to be part of a critical mass of attractions. They can't be saddled with debt. And they must have "something charismatic" to attract the large numbers of paying customers they require to stay afloat.

The proposed Toronto aquarium appears to be missing at least two of those essentials; the third is uncertain.

The 4.63-hectare site is tucked away at the west end of Exhibition Place, a barren expanse that for most of the year is devoid of people. The main nearby attractions are tired, summer-only Ontario Place, the cavernous National Trade Centre, a small casino and a dinner theatre.

As for charismatic attractions, it won't include the most popular : whales, dolphins and other marine mammals.

"There are restrictions: no mammals in this aquarium," says Councillor Joe Pantalone, who, as chair of Exhibition Place, is spearheading the project. "Mammals are biologically our cousins and it would be completely inappropriate" to bring them in, he says.

"We don't have whales and dolphins in our aquariums," says Bob Masterson, president of Ripley Entertainment Inc. of Orlando, Fla., which operates two aquariums in U.S. cities, is building two others and is expected to be a leading candidate to construct Toronto's.

That policy will avoid conflict with powerful animal rights activists, who are vowing to fight any attempt to include whales, dolphins or other marine mammals in the project.

"We've put them on notice: it would spark a massive controversy if they attempt to bring in any mammals," says Julie Woodyer, campaigns director for Zoocheck Canada, in Toronto. "It won't just be us. It will be massive. There will be groups from right around the world lobbying the city for this not to be allowed to happen."

Excluding marine mammals will, however, make it more difficult to attract crowds of visitors, particularly at the high admission prices aquariums must charge to cover their costs.

"You have to have ... sharks or marine mammals or something," Fassnacht says.

Critics argue that marine mammals are intelligent, social and need far more space than they get in any enclosure. Studies have shown they live only half as long in captivity as they do in the wild, says Michael O'Sullivan, executive director of the Toronto-based Humane Society of Canada.

"The problem is the miseducation of the public, that it's okay to take these highly intelligent, social animals from their families at a young age, put them in concrete boxes and force them to do silly pet tricks," says Annelise Sorg, president of the Vancouver-based Coalition for No Whales in Captivity, which helped persuade that city's aquarium to stop housing killer whales.

Ripley's Masterson says they aren't essential: "We've been successful without them."

But Fassnacht says the big mammals play an important role in aquariums.

The Shedd, like most others in the U.S., is a non-profit operation with an educational and political mission: to inspire visitors to care about Earth's oceans, lakes and rivers, and the creatures that inhabit them.

It wants its animals to "connect people to the living world, and no animal in the building does a better job of that than whales and dolphins. People see these animals and they're completely wowed," Fassnacht says.

As long as they get top-quality care and aren't forced into doing circus stunts, "they become ambassadors for the wild," argues Peter Chermayeff of Chermayeff, Sollogub and Poole Inc., a Boston architectural firm that specializes in aquarium design and development.

"They make people care more. When you care, you become another voice for habitat protection."

Most U.S. aquariums, whether for profit or non-profit, display dolphins, whales or both, and all have some sort of marine mammals. That includes two of the "big three": Shedd and Baltimore National.

The third, Monterey Bay, on a spectacular Pacific coast site, has none in captivity, but visitors can see them from the aquarium's deck, cavorting in the animal-rich open ocean.

It's possible to succeed without marine mammals, as a freshwater aquarium in Chattanooga, Tenn., is proving.

It showcases freshwater marine life from habitats stretching from the Appalachian Mountains to the Gulf of Mexico. Visitors can see, for example, how brook trout hide in river eddies then come out into the current to feed, says Chermayeff, whose firm designed it.

People enjoy learning about environments that seem familiar but that they don't really know, he says.

Peterson and others point out that aquariums, like any other attraction, must constantly offer new and exciting exhibits.

Monterey welcomed about 2.5 million visitors in its first year, then watched as attendance slowly and steadily eroded. The aquarium began a program of special exhibitions, which are changed regularly, and brought in a charismatic attraction: the only white shark in captivity. Annual attendance now averages about 1.8 million.

But anything - even jellyfish or seahorses - can draw visitors if it's done right, Peterson says.

Backers of Toronto's proposed aquarium say it will attract tourists and boost the city's western waterfront. But industry observers have doubts about how much business such a stand-alone project can bring in.

More crucial than having mammals, they say, is that aquariums be part of a critical mass of attractions or, at the very least, be on sites where other development can happen.

"You can't be confident of success standing alone unless you're very, very good," Chermayeff says.

It's far better, he says, to have "synergies" with other attractions or features. The ideal is to create a location where visitors, rather than coming just to see the aquarium, will spend an entire day or even stay overnight.

That suggests that Toronto's proposed site - a considerable distance from downtown, hemmed in by roads and railway tracks, and with only a couple of small, all-year attractions nearby - presents a challenge.

At Exhibition Place, "there is some planning of some other adjacent development to be considered," Chermayeff says, cautiously.

Experience across North America shows that whether or not aquariums display whales and dolphins, they rarely succeed on their own, says John Holer, who owns and operates Marineland, on 400 hectares in Niagara Falls. At first an aquarium may look successful, he says, but people visit only once or twice: "They don't want to come back and see the same thing."

Marineland includes rides, restaurants and other attractions, and is undergoing another expansion, Holer says. And it's in Niagara Falls, which is already a tourist mecca.

The Shedd Aquarium - which is the world's largest indoor aquarium and attracts about 2 million people a year - is close to downtown Chicago, next to a planetarium and the world-famous Field Museum. The Art Institute of Chicago is nearby.

The Baltimore National was part of an extensive downtown waterfront redevelopment. Monterey Bay is on a main tourist route between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Atlanta is getting a massive new aquarium, but it's being built along with a Coca-Cola museum.

The Chattanooga aquarium went up in a derelict industrial district, but it's just nine blocks from the small city's downtown and was surrounded by developable land. Before long, it attracted three new hotels, several dozen stores and restaurants and other attractions, and helped to revive what is now known as the "Environmental City."

"It helps if everything around you is being developed according to plan," Peterson says.

All of Ripley's aquariums are near the company's museums and other features, says spokesperson Tim O'Brien.

Ripley this week broke ground on a $200 million project in Niagara Falls that will eventually include an aquarium, but only after a hotel and all-year water park are completed.

Aquariums in Tampa, Fla., Camden, N.J., and Long Beach, Calif., ran into financial trouble because development didn't follow them as quickly as expected.

Financial prospects are difficult to assess, experts say.

Most U.S. aquariums are non-profit organizations or publicly owned, and were built with large grants from generous donors or government-backed financing. A few, including Shedd, get part of their operating budget from the host city.

Toronto's plan is a rare attempt to build an aquarium without government financing, apart from favourable terms for a 99-year lease on the property and transit improvements. City officials say they've contacted about 50 potential builders, but only four private companies operate large marine exhibits in North America.

City officials expect it would attract at least a million visitors each year, for an annual operating profit of up to $11 million.

Masterson estimates it would cost more than $100 million to build and $30,000 a day to operate.

Simple arithmetic using these numbers suggests tickets would have to cost an average of about $20, just to cover operating costs and the forecast profit. More would probably be needed to repay the construction investment.

The main thing, the experts say, is to do an aquarium well.

"You have to have a very clear vision of what you're planning to do" as well as "a really conservative financial plan," Peterson says.

Despite the potential problems, Chermayeff - who was involved in some of the previous attempts to launch a Toronto aquarium - is optimistic.

"Toronto will respond to a world-class aquarium very well," he says. "It's a great place for this to happen."

GRAPHIC: RICHARD GREEN associated press A black tip reef shark cruises in a tank at Monterey Bay Aquarium. The California facility had to woo visitors despite its spectacular site.

LOAD-DATE: January 24, 2005


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