THE design phase of The Cairns Aquarium - a much mooted infrastructure piece regarded by the regional tourism industry as an accelerator for certain Asian markets - was launched in Cairns on Friday (May 10).
Directors of The Cairns Aquarium and Regional Development Australia (RDA) FNQ&TS hosted a media event in Cairns to launch the design stage of the multi-million dollar aquarium project. This will culminate in the submission of a development application (DA) to Cairns Regional Council later this year.
While the Great Barrier Reef is the region's overwhelming tourism asset, weather events and the reticence of some markets for long sea travel means the region could capitalize on a world-leading aquarium, stocked from the reef.
RDA FNQ&TS chairman, Allan Dale said Friday's event was significant for Far North Queensland's regional tourism industry, which stands to prosper in the future with the introduction of another world-class tourism experience.
"The arrival of this project is timely and deemed to be of great value to the region's emerging Chinese market," Dr Dale said.
"We also feel proud of the fact that The Cairns Aquarium was the first major tourism infrastructure project to receive Commonwealth Government Assistance for its start up phase. This is great for our region and proves Far North Queensland's voice is being heard loud and clear in Canberra."
The Cairns Aquarium director, Daniel Leipnik said the successful architectural firm was to be chosen from 15 tenders to design and develop the project's $35 million flagship building.
Jan McLucas, Minister for Human Services confirmed the Federal Government's current funding and assistance being provided under the Department of Tourism's TMPF and TIRF programs.
"The Department of Tourism's support has been a significant factor enabling us to launch our flagship tourism project that is expected to attract over 500,000 visitors each year - making it one of the busiest land based tourist attractions the region has on offer," Mr Leipnik said.
"When complete, The Cairns Aquarium will be a valuable drawcard for Cairns's CBD precinct - providing an all weather, all ages, affordable, exciting and enjoyable way of seeing reef and rainforest creatures in a comfortable and safe way."
According to Mr Leipnik, The Cairns Aquarium project has attracted support from all levels of government, the business community, and members of the public who see the project as a vital mean of revitalising the CBD and providing a new and innovative approach to showcasing the flora and fauna of the Wet Tropics to a growing tourist market.
"Cairns Aquarium will generate over 250 full time jobs and substantial economic flow on effects to businesses and local suppliers during construction and well into operation," Mr Leipnik said. "It will also focus on creating awareness of the threats to The Great Barrier Reef and surrounding eco-systems and what can be done to protect these environments."
The initial design stage of Cairns Aquarium is anticipated to take four months with the DA scheduled for lodgment with Cairns Regional Council by September 2013.
The Cairns Aquarium is slated to open in July 2016 following a year of design and development work and a further 18 months of construction.
The project involves the design, development and commercialisation of an architect inspired, iconic three storey, 10,000sqm landmark attraction featuring animals, plants and habitats found only in Queensland's Wet Tropics.
Feature exhibits will include a multi-million litre Great Barrier Reef tank, a giant freshwater River Monsters exhibit, a Life in the Mangroves lagoon exhibit, a Dangers of the Deep exhibit, a Daintree rainforest boardwalk and up to 70 other key exhibits housing some 5000 plus fish, animals and plants.
In December 2012, the Cairns Aquarium's company directors, Daniel Leipnik and Andrew Preston, purchased a 4000sqm, CBD land parcel on the corners of Lake, Florence, and Abbott Streets directly opposite and within walking distance of family friendly downtown hotels.
The project will create over 150 jobs during construction and over 100 staff positions once open.
It will deliver investment into the region of about $35 million for construction services and materials and generate almost $20 million in revenue per year once open.
When open, it is anticipated The Cairns Aquarium will be one of the top visitor attractions in the region with expectations of over 500,000 visitors each year.