Firefighters have put out a fire that destroyed the Touch the Sea Aquarium in Mapua early on Thursday.
The fire was the most serious of three lit in the area within the space of an hour, which police believe are linked and are treating as suspicious.
It took eight fire engines and a helicopter to bring the fire under control.
Hundreds of fish are believed to be dead, though it is not yet confirmed if this is the case.
"It's totally burnt out, I dare say the fish will have had a horrible death," Touch the Sea's Murray Goss told the New Zealand Herald. "Some of them will still be alive - some of the ones in the big tanks."
Fires were also started in a nearby rubbish bin and a tennis court pavilion.
Marine educator at the aquarium, Richard de Hamel, watched it burn.
"They just rang up and said it's all on fire, and I guess in some ways I just saw my future flash before my eyes," he told 3 News.
"You think it can't be, but it definitely is."
As well as being a tourist attraction, the aquarium had a hands-on teaching program and would often host school groups.
"The aquarium's such a drawcard for children in summer, and for it not to be here, it's part of Mapua's waterfront," says Graham Drury, owner of a gift shop that was also burned.
3 News / NZN
source: newshub archive