BayBuzz originally broke this story on 21 April 2008, when we reported on a secret trip Mayor Barbara Arnott had made to Amsterdam and Venice.

Here’s what we wrote to our three readers, exclusive of immediate family, at that time (now we have about 3,000 online unique readers per month [ED: now nearly 3000 per week]):

“Prodded by Mayor Arnott, who literally gushed with enthusiasm after researching firsthand in Amsterdam and Venice the delights of living below sea level, the (NCC) planning team has risen to the hydraulic challenge and developed a scheme called Growing Under Water (GUW).

“GUW envisions a partially submerged residential development with homes connected by meandering canals (this of course is the Te Awa development). Residents would leave their cars at the edge of the development, and use personal gondolas to pole around within the complex. Deluxe homes would have underwater viewing rooms to watch sea life purpose-bred for a life of entertainment in the complex by a rejuvenated Marineland. A special canal for high speed vaporetto would ferry GymSports enthusiasts from the village to the proposed Regional Sports Park.

“Planners are dripping with excitement over the sustainability benefits of this approach — no carbon footprint within the village, a new lease on life for Marineland, and an estimated 175 new jobs for gondoliers, marine biologists, hydraulic engineers, water-proofing contractors and pump repair mechanics.

“A major glitch in the planning has been the problem of sewage disposal in an area where the water table routinely would be higher than the first floor of most dwellings. Mayor Arnott has voiced major displeasure that planners haven’t disposed of this messy matter. She was heard to explode: ‘I’m sick of this mental constipation. If Venice can live in sh*t and still be a world-class tourist attraction, you can bet your a** that Napier can do it.’”

Napier planners got the message. What BayBuzz uncovered three years ago has become merely the tip of the iceberg.

Since 2008, GUW has expanded into a Napier City-wide planning exercise. A new vision for Napier has been articulated … the Art Deco City will be replaced by the world’s first City Under the Sea.

Excited visitors arriving at Napier will get their first taste of the aquatic city when their plane ditches at a submerged Hawke’s Bay Airport and they board life rafts to reach the terminal. From there, just like in Venice, they will be ferried to Napier’s downtown docks at the upper reaches of Napier Hill. Visitors arriving by sea will disembark from submarines at the Napier Port. From there, gondolas and small submersibles will carry them through the city. “No more need for a carbon burning/emitting bus service between Ahuriri and Marine Parade,” said a frugal Mayor Arnott. Visitors driving from Taupo will board ferries at Eskdale.

Among other elements of the City Under the Sea blueprint …

Secretly, plans for the new Hawke’s Bay Museum and Art Gallery have been overhauled. The building will now be erected upon giant pontoons. As the sea level rises (or in case of a tsunami or major rain bomb), the entire complex — complete with its vast and invaluable underwater underground archives — can be floated to a safe location.

Tourists especially will enjoy the vaporetto service providing direct links between Napier Hill and Te Mata Peak.

Dolphins will frolic freely throughout Napier, enjoyed by the residents of Taradale from their rooftop decks.

The Heretaunga Plains will be re-named the Heretaunga Sea. Millions will be saved on unnecessary roadways and stopbanks.

Economic development will center largely on aquaculture … aquaculture in; agriculture out.

It’s an exciting vision for Napier to be sure, but it does have casualties.

Marine Parade and Westshore will be ‘re-located inland’.

The HB Airport Authority, which just announced plans to spend $1 million on roading for a business park at the soon-to-be-submerged airport, will need to reconsider its plans. So too will the Napier City Council itself, which has been planning its own ‘green’ business park not too far from the airport, on liquefaction prone land. Originally, ‘liquefaction’ was meant to refer to an earthquake effect. But more recently in Napier the connotation has become, simply, ‘underwater’ (or under mud, as the case may be).

BayBuzz asked Mayor Arnott why these plans have been kept secret from Napier ratepayers.

“We wanted to avert panic,” she said. “Napier homeowners who are perfectly complacent about living on top of toxic contaminants, as in Onekawa, or amidst sewage when it rains, as in Meeanee, might have an entirely different reaction to living underwater. These things need to be carefully managed.”

Mayor Arnott would not comment further about when Napier would begin its re-branding initiative for the City Under the Sea, citing commercial sensitivity in view of possible competition from Amsterdam and Venice.

But rumors are flowing already, and a surge in buying of small boats, inflatables and life vests has already begun, according to Brian Firman at Firmans Marine in Napier.

Stay tuned to this emergency frequency!

Tom Belford

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  1. Hi Tom

    Can you confirm that prospective buyers on Liquifaction Lane (off Te Awa Ave) are being offered extra garage space with hovercraft as an inducement to build a house there?

  2. Having kayaked over an underwater city on the south west coast of Turkey I will look forward to enjoying a similar experience over Napier. Funny thing about the residents of the Turkish city though is they all looked rather fishy!

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