A leap in demand for research following the grounding of the cargo ship Rena has seen the University of Waikato extend its Coastal Marine Field Station in Sulphur Point.
The extended premises was opened last week in front of local dignitaries, marine experts and university leaders.
University of Waikato deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Alister Jones said the Marine Station had grown significantly in the last 12 months following the grounding of CV Rena, which added to the growth in research demand.
He said important partnerships with other tertiary institutions, the business community and with iwi were important in establishing the Coastal Marine Field Station.
"It is a reflection of universities of the future that they will become more multi-disciplinary and conduct highly relevant research to meet the needs of the community,'' he said.
Bay of Plenty Regional Council chair John Cronin spoke at the event and said he was pleased to celebrate the ongoing success of research in the Bay.
He was particularly impressed to be back at the Sulphur Point facility at the new building opening so quickly after the original building opened about 12 months ago.
The opening also celebrated the awarding of scholarships to 15 students who will conduct the Rena-related research over the coming months.
The University's Chair of Coastal Science Professor Chris Battershill said the opening of the extended premises was ``excellent timing'' as the forthcoming summer programme would involve dozens of students and volunteers continuing the sampling and monitoring of rocky shore and sandy coastline marine communities as well as offshore reef systems.
During the year, the multidisciplinary Te Mauri Moana tertiary partnership was formed to manage the extensive environmental research as part of the Rena Long-Term Environmental Recovery Plan.
Te Mauri Moana includes the University of Waikato, Bay of Plenty Polytechnic, Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi and the University of Canterbury.
The group has recently announced positive preliminary results following initial sampling, and Professor Battershill
said the focus would now move to Otaiti (Astrolabe Reef) to determine the environmental impact there.