Newspaper Article 2003 – Designer of original aquarium dies


Designer of original aquarium dies

The man who designed the original Hawke’s Bay Aquarium, Len Speight died in Napier on January 14, aged 74.

Born in Palmerston North where he had been following in the footsteps of his father, who was a builder in the city, Mr Speight learned his architecture by correspondence and designed the aquarium while Napier city architect from 1967 to 1976.

Built and furbished at a cost of about $600,000, and recognised with a special merit award from the Minister of Tourism, the aquarium opened soon after Mr Speight moved to Dunedin to work for the Ministry of Education.

It was one of several significant projects designed by Mr Speight in Napier, dating from the first, the Centennial flats in Taradale, and the Onekawa netball courts pavilion which cost about $8000 and was built in 1968.

Among others were the Senior Citizen’s Club in Vautier Street, Napier, the heated pool at the Onekawa Aquatic Centre, and the Purimu Stream pumping station in Onekawa.

There were, however, projects which never made it, such as a shelved plan for a mall through Market Street, between Emerson and Tennyson streets, and a similarly-abandoned amphiteare [amphitheatre] at the Soundshell.

Further afield, perhaps his most significant project was working for Wellington firm Stevenson and Turner as site architect on the BNZ construction in Willis Street, Wellington, ensuring the long-running project kept to the plans intended by its designers.

His design career also took him to Taupo, New Plymouth and finally back to Hawke’s Bay, where he took a job as a draughtsman with the Hastings City Council in 1985 through to his retirement in 1994.

Mr Speight, whose mother died when he was 13 and who had no brothers or sisters, married first wife Judy about 1960 and they had two sons and a daughter.

They divorced and in 1988 in Napier he married second wife Mary, who had emigrated from England to New Zealand with her parents on the Fairstar in 1973.

They had met through a common involvement in the Masonic Lodge, of which Mr Speight became a Master of Victoria No 21 in 1989, but he eagerly became involved in new interests, such as the Caledonian Society.

Recognising his own Scots roots, embodied in his middle name which was the family name of his grandmother, he was seen at society functions in a kilt.

He was liaison officer for the Gore pipe band when it was in Napier for the Dominion championships in 1994, and when about 110 people attended his funeral in St Paul’s Presbyterian Church in Napier on January 18, among them was a piper to pipe him on his final journey.

A feature of his work was interest in building the models which would convince employers and clients that respective projects were feasible, including the aquarium which he wanted to be round, in keeping with the orb of a fish bowl.

An avid reader, his health deteriorated in recent years, and he had to leave the home he and Mary had established in Maraenui to spend his last year in Parkside’s continuing care unit, where he passed away.

Original digital file


Non-commercial use

Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 New Zealand (CC BY-NC 3.0 NZ)

This work is licensed under a Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 New Zealand (CC BY-NC 3.0 NZ).


Commercial Use

Copyright on this material is owned by Hawke's Bay Today and is not available for commercial use without their consent.

Format of the original

Newspaper article

Date published

27 January 2003


Hawke's Bay Today


Published with permission of Hawke's Bay Today


  • Mrs Judy Speight
  • Len Speight
  • Mrs Mary Speight

Accession number


Do you know something about this record?

Please note we cannot verify the accuracy of any information posted by the community.

Supporters and sponsors

We sincerely thank the following businesses and organisations for their support.