News from Townsville Enterprise

September 14th, 2017

Media Release; Corporate Funding for Museum of Underwater Art

Industry leaders are expecting the final feasibility report by international artist, Jason deCaires Taylor in the next fortnight following the scoping visit to create a Great Barrier Reef Museum of Underwater Art off the coast of Townsville.

More than $700,000 in local corporate cash and contra donations have been confirmed including $200,000 from the SeaLink Travel Group, $200,000 from the Morris Group (owners of the Northern Escape Collection) and $200,000 from the Gleeson Group (owners of The Hive precinct on the Strand). Pacific Marine Group have confirmed $50,000, the Townsville Airport have confirmed $20,000 and the Flemming family, who have operated in the tourism industry for more than 20 years at Billabong Sanctuary and Bungalow Bay on Magnetic Island, have pledged $15,000.

Discussions continue with the State Government for a contribution to match corporate and community contributions.

The Museum of Underwater Art would be the first of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere and on a scale that would significantly expand the city and region’s tourism offering and would help support Queensland’s visitor attraction strategy. The Museum of Underwater Art will strengthen the region’s educational tourism offering across Queensland.

The project team led by SeaLink Queensland, Reef Ecologic, Townsville City Council, Palm Island Aboriginal Shire Council, James Cook University and Townsville Enterprise, announced the sites identified by the artist as providing the best setting for the underwater art installations. They are:
• Geoffrey Bay, Magnetic Island
• The northern aspect of Coolgaree Bay, Palm Island
• The northern reaches of John Brewer Reef in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park
• The Strand was also nominated but a final position would be worked with Townsville City Council
• The Burdekin Shire Council put a strong case forward for further sites in and around the Yongala dive site to be considered

Both underwater and intertidal installations are being considered and discussions continue with Traditional Owners, Councils and Marine Park managers on the suitability of these sites.

A $40M expansion of the local tourism economy is forecast if the project gets the green light, along with potentially hundreds of millions of dollars of regional public relations value. Boosts to accommodation, transport and hospitality businesses in Townsville are key benefits to the region from this project. An independent economic assessment is underway.

The Queens Hotel Site on the Strand, has been scoped and chosen as the base for the project. Jason deCaires Taylor would establish an arts business and operation from the former Channel 10 studio site at the rear of the Queens Hotel with proposed Gallery and Workshop space for visitors, community groups and artists. The Gleeson Group, through the Hive development, will be a major sponsor with a commitment of $200,000 over two years.

If the State Government funding is secured and the artist is signed, the Townsville Enterprise Emerging Leaders and Alumni will launch a Community Engagement Strategy to raise $1M in community donations. The community engagement strategy will provide the opportunity for schools, community groups and local residents to see the project’s formation at Queens Hotel on the Strand.

Permit applications will be lodged with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority as soon as funding has been secured.

Townsville Enterprise Director and Regional General Manager for the SeaLink Travel Group, Paul Victory, said he is very pleased with the community and industry response to these discussions.

“Everyone we have spoken with about Jason’s proposal is extremely positive about the potential, and with the right momentum it will be transformational for our city’s tourism offering”, said Mr Victory.

“I have been extremely pleased with the local corporate investment; however, more financial support is required to ensure we can bring this project to Townsville. Securing our local State Government support is critical”.

Dr Paul Marshall, Director of Reef Ecologic, and former Director of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority said that the Great Barrier Reef Museum of Underwater Art project is an exciting opportunity for Townsville, the Great Barrier Reef, and all of Australia.

“It brings together world-leading art, science and environmental capabilities to create a whole new suite of options for locals and tourists to connect with the Great Barrier Reef”, Mr Marshall said.

“We are looking forward to Jason’s full concept proposal, and then working with local businesses, government and the artist to turn this into a major Great Barrier Reef educational opportunity”.

Palm Island Mayor Alf Lacey said that the project may well give the Palm Island community a unique opportunity to further its first people stories, but also provide a much needed economic development opportunity.

“The Palm Island Council sees jobs for its people as being critical and this project may well add to available jobs on Palm Island”, Mayor Lacey said.

According to Townsville Enterprise CEO, Patricia O’Callaghan, securing Jason to develop the regional underwater art museum is a significant coup for economic development in the region.

“This is an opportunity not to be missed and one that is forecast to create more than 150 additional jobs in the tourism and hospitality sectors in Townsville”, Ms O’Callaghan said.

The full concept is due end of September 2017.

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