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Kelly Tarlton's to get $12 million Facelift

Icon New Zealand Visitor Attraction to get $12 million Facelift

The internationally renowned Kelly Tarlton’s Antarctic Encounter & Underwater World on Auckland’s waterfront is to receive a $12 million refurbishment over the next four years, the owner and operator, Tourism Holdings Limited (THL) announced today.

Announcing the redevelopment, THL’s Experiences Division General Manager Richard Wilson, said the four-year refurbishment programme is scheduled to begin next month with the design and installation of a new filtration system for the aquarium tanks that contain over 1,000 fish of 40 different species.

“A critical consideration is that Kelly Tarlton’s must stay open during the work – we’re open every day of the year – and that there must be minimal disruption for visitors and, of course, the marine life in the aquarium tanks.”

Among the additions and improvements will be the opportunity for visitors to swim with sharks and to get up close and personal with giant sting rays in the new Sting Ray Bay.

Other work will focus on a new shark feeding area, upgraded entranceway and back of house facilities, a café and function rooms, plus operational aspects including the reconfiguration of the “people mover” conveyor system that carries visitors through the underground attraction.

Mr Wilson said the redevelopment was part of THL’s ongoing strategy to upgrade facilities and plant to ensure it delivered “best in class” experiences and services to visitors.

THL is New Zealand’s leading tourist transport and experiences operator and has interests in Australia.

In addition to the Kelly Tarlton’s redevelopment, THL will next month open a purpose-built depot adjacent to Auckland International Airport for its Johnston’s Coachlines, Great Sights and Airbus coach fleets.

THL also recently announced the purchase of a state-of-the-art catamaran for its Milford Sound Red Boat Cruises. The 34-metre Pride of Milford vessel is due for delivery in time for the coming New Zealand summer season.

Among other ongoing investment is the development of websites to support each of the company’s brands, plus the purchase of new vehicles for its Rentals operation – Britz Campervans and Maui Motorhomes. This programme includes a recent agreement with Volkswagen to provide vehicle chassis.

Mr Wilson said legendary diver and salvor Kelly Tarlton, who founded the waterfront aquarium in the mid 1980’s in disused stormwater and sewerage tanks, did so in a “culture of pioneering, adventure and passion”.

“These are the values Tourism Holdings has been proud to preserve and grow in the 11 years we have owned and operated Kelly Tarlton’s. The refurbishments will continue this legacy, providing visitors with even greater insights into the oceans that cover two thirds of our planet’s surface and the marine life that inhabits its foreshores and depths,” he said.

The civil and structural engineering firm, Thorburn Consultants, is the project manager for the redevelopment. The team includes Craig Thorburn who was fish curator at Kelly Tarlton’s until he moved four years ago to Melbourne to assist with the design and construction of the Melbourne Aquarium. The firm has extensive experience in the development and construction of large public aquaria in the United States and Europe, as well as in Australia.

The architect for the project is Ignite Architects. The firm specialises in the design of retail and tourism facilities with benchmark projects including the 277 and Chancery Street retail and office complexes in Auckland.

Over the years, Kelly Tarlton’s has moved from being a passive “seeing attraction” to offering visitors a close up, interactive experience.

The journey begins with a walk through a life-size reconstruction of the ill-fated Antarctic explorer Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s hut, “frozen” in time since his icy exploration in 1912.

Visitors then board a snow cat to travel through a realistic Antarctic landscape – the attraction makes three tonnes of fresh snow daily – to see live King and Gentoo penguins.

Following this, visitors journey along a conveyor system through a series of Perspex tunnels, coming face to face with denizens of the deeps such as sharks, moray eels, octopus and piranha, as well as bright corals, anemones, weedy and leafy sea dragons and sea horses.

Kelly Tarlton’s is recognised for its conservation and marine science education programmes, which are designed to meet the interests of pre-school children through to tertiary students. Educational sleepovers are a feature of the popular schools programmes when children get to feed the aquatic creatures by torchlight and to sleep the night in their sleeping bags next to their fishy friends.

Tourism Holdings Limited has three divisions – Experiences, Rentals and Backpacker Transport. The Experiences division includes Kelly Tarlton’s Antarctic Encounter and Underwater World, the Great Sights, Johnston’s Coachlines and Airbus coaching operations, Milford Sound Red Boat Cruises, Waitomo Glowworm Caves and Ski Express. The Rentals division includes the Maui and Britz operations, Skiwi, the recently introduced Backpacker campervans, plus the motorhome and caravan manufacturing plant, CI Munro. The alternative backpacker coach travel network – Kiwi, Oz and Feejee Experience.

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