Plans for the Global Great Barrier Reef Centre of Excellence Revealed

14th March 2024

Plans have been revealed for a brand new Global Great Barrier Reef Centre of Excellence which will change the face of our city and waterfront forever.  

Budget advocacy has begun with the Federal Government for funding to develop a precinct that will feature a state the of art Great Barrier Reef Aquarium, as a catalyst to unlock $500M of investment. 

Today, Townsville Enterprise, Townsville City Council, and the Port of Townsville, exclusively unveil the development plans to revitalise and reimagine the first of three new Townsville Waterfront Precincts. 

The centrepiece of the new precinct is the Great Barrier Reef Aquarium with a renewed focus on cementing Townsville North Queensland's credentials as the world leader in education and marine science for the Great Barrier Reef.  

Whilst Reef HQ, the largest living coral reef aquarium in the world, has been a cornerstone of the North Queensland community for over three decades, the new precinct will see the Aquarium redeveloped to be a more educational, immersive and sustainable experience, and importantly one that enables and fosters greater collaboration amongst the world’s leading marine science facilities, including Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, AIMS (Australian Institute of Marine Science) and James Cook University. For the first time in history, the worlds three leading research and science bodies, as well as the indigenous storytelling of the Great Barrier Reef, will take a prominent spot in the visionary precinct.  

Claudia Brumme-Smith, CEO of Townsville Enterprise said that a reimagined waterfront will be a transformative evolution in the city’s lifestyle, education, cultural and entertainment offering, which is critical to enhancing liveability and community pride. 

“This is an exciting opportunity for Townsville - to put us on the global stage for reef protection and marine science. We have been working closely behind the scenes to secure a proud community vision for transforming our waterfront to showcase our world leading expertise in marine science, but at the same time enhance the liveability and attraction of our city,” said Ms Brumme-Smith.  

“The Great Barrier Reef Aquarium is at the center of the first phase of this important redevelopment, but its more than just the world largest living coral reef aquarium. This new precinct will be the Great Barrier Reef’s front facing educational showcase, solidifying our region as the number one global education and marine science epicenter, that we are.” 

“We know the Great Barrier Reef is under pressure, and it is through a collaborative scientific approach, as well as educating the community and globe, that we can solve the challenges together. This aquarium is a big part of the solution, but the precinct will also enable a larger benefit for our region.” 

“We are calling for the Federal Government to support this transformative precinct.” 

Townsville City Council Mayor, Jenny Hill has put her support behind the precinct emphasising its importance for our community, our nation, and the Great Barrier Reef.  

“Australia’s $56 billion Great Barrier Reef deserves a gateway Aussies can boast about. A global showcase for this natural wonder of the world. This is the Questacon or NASA of the Great Barrier Reef, and its purpose far exceeds the significant tourism and economic benefits it provides,” said Mayor Hill.  

“From school students, to researchers, to those with accessibility challenges, a purpose-built showcase of the Great Barrier Reef that offers our community and visitors a front facing educational experience to showcase innovation, science and demonstrate how and why the Great Barrier Reef is the best managed reef in the world.”  

“The importance of this precinct cannot be understated. Townsville Waterfront Renewal will help cement Townsville as regional Australia’s most liveable city.” 

“Having the Great Barrier Reef Aquarium at the heart of our city’s transformation has always been my vision. The challenges of the Great Barrier Reef will be solved here in Townsville, but only if we have a way to educate the world. The Great Barrier Reef Aquarium and the broader precinct is that opportunity.” 

 Ranee Crosby, CEO of Port of Townsville said they are proud to be backing the precinct which will unlock significant private investment.  

“We’ve always been the proud landowner of the Reef HQ Aquarium site, but now the opportunity presents itself to develop a broader precinct, and one of the most exciting precincts in the world,” said Ms Crosby. 

“The Global Great Barrier Reef Centre of Excellence will showcase Townsville and the Great Barrier Reef in a unique way and unlock more than $500M of investment.” 

“This precinct will also enable the Port of Townsville and others to demonstrate, that as a city, we have always taken great pride in our environmental leadership for the Great Barrier Reef.” 

“This will be the precinct where science comes together, where collaboration happens, and where the global community is educated about Australia’s greatest natural assets and our management strategies.” 

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