Unlock the North | Destination Development Priorities

The tourism, hospitality and events sector has been hit first and hardest by the impacts of COVID-19. This is an industry which in North Queensland supports 37,400 jobs and contributes $6.4B to the Queensland economy annually.

Prior to COVID-19, the Townsville North Queensland region welcomed almost three million visitors annually. As a region, key policy considerations, as well as investment and support towards turning sod on new tourism experiences and supporting infrastructure, will accelerate recovery from the pandemic. Rebuilding and enhancing the North Queensland tourism offering is critical as this is an industry that not significantly contributes to North Queensland's economy, but also encourages community pride and supports livability.

The Townsville North Queensland region is world leading in nature based experiences centered around fishing, wildlife and hiking (read more). As we rebuild from impacts of COVID-19, there is a significant opportunity to leverage our destination’s strengths to help the tourism sector to recover, a sector which is critical to the fabric of our community.


Reef HQ Aquarium

Opening in 1987 as a Bicentennial initiative, Reef HQ Great Barrier Reef Aquarium, the Australian Government’s National Education Centre for the Great Barrier Reef,
is home to the world’s largest living coral reef exhibit, a natural resource that welcomes approximately 140,000 visitors annually. Reef HQ delivers both in-house and outreach education as well as Educational Tourism (EduTourism) programs.

Since opening, advancements in technology and building material have made it possible to have bigger and better viewing spaces and exhibits using energy efficient and sustainable materials. Unfortunately, Reef HQ has been unable to keep pace with these improvements and has been able to create new experiences and product development.

$80M is required to upgrade and redevelop the facility to world-class standards of which the Federal Government has today announced $5M towards the facility on top of their $30M commitment announced earlier this year. There remains a $45M funding ask to complete construction requirements.

Paluma to Wallaman Falls Trail

Hiking and mountain biking is a key growth segment within the tourism industry. Iconic trails from across Australia and New Zealand such as the Overland Track, Great Ocean Walk and Milford Sound Track attract thousands of high value visitors annually, injecting millions in economic value and placing regional destinations on the map for tourists from across the globe.

A potential trail has been proposed from Paluma to Wallaman Falls. The 125km trail would be experienced over approximately 7 days/6 nights. This trail not only offers world-class scenery and landscapes but would provide visitors a spiritual and immersive experience travelling in the footsteps of ancient Indigenous tribes.

Following a concept plan which was funded and supported by the Townsville City Council, Hinchinbrook Shire Council and Charters Towers Regional Council, The State Government is currently working towards a full business case for this project. A funding commitment to the capital works and fast-tracking the delivery of this business case is the next opportunity.

Museum of Underwater Art

The Museum of Underwater Art project will engage and inspire people from across the globe to visit and love the Great Barrier Reef. It brings together science, art and first nation’s culture, into a multi-day tourism educational experience in the Townsville North Queensland region.

Last month, the Queensland Government announced a further $1M towards the Museum of Underwater Art, Phase 3. This funding will enable the extension of the MOUA project to Magnetic Island and will deliver a unique intertidal and snorkeling tourism experience for visitors and the local community.

This commitment came just weeks after the official launch of the John Brewer Reef Coral Greenhouse installation which has already drawn global media attention and driving visitation to the region. Read more HERE.

DriveIt NQ

DriveIt NQ comprises organisations, clubs and individuals dedicated to establishing a permanent driver education and motorsport precinct in Townsville. A dedicated precinct for Driver Education and Motorsport Precinct will enable North Queensland to cement its positioning as an events and adventure destination and become a leading motorsports hub, generating approximately $32.2M in economic activity for the region.

A lease agreement in place at Calcium with Townsville City Council with full DA approval, $12M in grant funding has been provided by the Federal Department of Infrastructure, Regional Development and Cities, $5M in State Government funding to upgrade surrounding road infrastructure. The project required $12M to complete the precinct and last week received $10M from the State Government towards delivering the full vision. The project has broken ground with Stage One currently underway.

North Australia Cultural Precinct:
Concert Hall, Conservatorium, Entertainment & Exhibition Space, Visual Arts Gallery

Recognising a long-term gap in modern facilities for the arts, the North Australia Cultural Precinct (NACP) will be an essential hub to access concerts and visual arts for the region. The vision is for the Precinct to comprise of a 1000 seat Concert Hall, Conservatorium, 6000 seat Entertainment & Exhibition Space with a Visual Arts Gallery.

While Townsville is the home to the North Australian Festival of Arts and Australian Festival of Chamber Music, we are unable to grow and expand due to a lack of suitable facilities. The lack of suitably scaled venues and limited calendar availability at existing venues is restricting the growth of audiences and nurturing of local talent.

A joint Federal and State funding commitment of $292M over five years ($40M in 2020/21) towards the project is anticipated to support almost 1000 construction jobs, 51 permanent ongoing jobs, and over 2000 indirect jobs in the region.

Bush Oasis Ecotourism, Glamping & Sustainable Habitats

The Bush Oasis Eco Tourism, Glamping and Sustainable Habitats Project will support Eco Tourism and Wildlife Habitats in the Townsville North Queensland region in a
sustainable manner catering to High Value Travellers and the Edutourism market.

Bush Oasis has recently secured $500K from the Growing Tourism Infrastructure Fund to complete project, on top of the $1M of private funding already committed. Construction of Wetland has commenced as owner funded proponent with proposed completion date of December 2020.


From our Director of Visitor Economy and Marketing, Lisa Woolfe...

 "We have a small window of opportunity to expedite North Queensland’s tourism recovery and building future resilience by leveraging our outdoor attractions, building awareness of the destination, and growing our product offering. Townsville Enterprise released a tourism strategy last year which identified a number of new experiences and infrastructure requirements for the industry. Destination development projects that all five of our regional councils are driving will be key to realising this vision and unlocking the true tourism potential of the North.

State and Federal Government policy decisions will be critical to achieve meaningful recovery of this sector. Incentives and policy reviews which reduce business overheads and create conducive operating environments will minimise business fatality and enable economic recovery.

There have been some positive announcements over the past seven days from the Premier and Chief Health Officer who have begun to review and ease restrictions which are now outlined in today's new Roadmap to Easing Restrictions. Allowing unseated eating and drinking from 4pm today and reducing the density rule for outdoor venues to 1 person per 2 square metres from 1am yesterday are both welcomed steps forward. Our advocacy around these issues recognise it is possible to have more commonsense relaxations based on our medical circumstances and drawing comparisons to the science based restrictions in place elsewhere around Australia.

We do acknowledge that this new roadmap still means many of our businesses will remain operating at reduced capacity, and we will continue our advocacy, particularly in regard to the 1 person per 2 sqm rule expanding to indoor areas, for regions like ours which have not experienced a case of community transmission.

Today's new roadmap outlining monthly easing of restrictions to the end of the year will however help build confidence and certainty for tourism and hospitality businesses leading into the critical Christmas period, and as JobKeeper begins to wind back."


The above Destination Development projects are just some included in the ‘Unlock the North Projects and Policies’ document recently launched last month to all sides of politics at Parliament House, Brisbane.

The advocacy platform includes regional projects and policies developed with TaskforceNQ and NQROC, which includes the Local Governments of Townsville, Burdekin, Charters Towers, Hinchinbrook, and Palm Island, outlining how governments can fast-track support to ramp up private investment and jobs for Australians. Click the button below to read more about these projects and policies.

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE FULL LIST OF PROJECTS AND POLICIES THAT FEATURE IN OUR 'UNLOCK THE NORTH' ADVOCACY CAMPAIGN

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