At the end of June 2011, on a day punctuated by bright sunshine and sudden cloudbursts, more than a hundred donors, supporters, locals and University staff gathered at the Marine Science Laboratory at Leigh, north of Auckland. They were there to celebrate the formal opening of the redeveloped campus and the Edith Winstone Blackwell Centre, the new interpretive interface between the marine reserve, the University and its marine research, and the public.
In his address, University Chancellor Roger France acknowledged the many individuals and groups who had combined forces to support the project: the local iwi Ngati Manuhiri, Department of Conservation and local authorities, the Advisory Committee chaired by Chris Mace, the Marine Laboratory Director, Professor John Montgomery, and his team at Leigh, Cheshire Architects, the interpretive centre's designers Natural Lines, and the builders.
The Chancellor paid special tribute to the major donors who have been instrumental in making the vision of a modernised and extended campus a reality. The Edith Winstone Blackwell Foundation's lead gift and continued close interest in the project have been the true foundation stone and inspiration for the development. Owen Glenn, Suzanne and Brian Service, Andrew and Rhonda Scott and an anonymous donation have all made a significant contribution in support of staff, students and research projects.
Professor Montgomery spoke of the purpose behind the campus upgrade and the interpretive centre in particular.
"New knowledge generated by science is essential to the future we wish to create for ourselves as a nation. But we are also becoming increasingly aware that new knowledge of itself is not enough. We need to attract young people into science and have them experience the excitement of discovery and then go on to use the power of that new knowledge in their careers.
"What is represented here in the Edith Winstone Blackwell Centre is really a portal into a fascinating world that will give the visitor a taste of the wonders of our marine environment and, we hope, make them want to seek out more.
"I think it is vital for the Centre that we do everything we can to develop this living interface between the life of the laboratory and the experience of the public when they visit here. This really is our point of difference."
The development of the Leigh marine campus and the interpretive centre is an ongoing project. The introduction of interactive technology is needed to guarantee return family visits and classroom facilities are important to increase access and activities that will lift the understanding of marine science among pupils from Auckland and Northland schools.
Become a Friend of Leigh Marine Laboratory and help promote the responsible stewardship of New Zealand's marine environment, by supporting marine research and the development of public facilities in the South Pacific Centre for Marine Science, based at the Leigh Marine Laboratory.