Reef HQ Aquarium secures additional funding of $40 million under Townsville City Deal


Minister for Communications, Urban Infrastructure, Cities and the Arts


Townsville City Deal Continues to Deliver

The Morrison Government has today announced a $55 million investment in two key projects as part of the transformational Townsville City Deal.

The investment will help revitalise two iconic organisations in North Queensland.

A $40 million funding boost will help transform Reef HQ – the world’s largest living coral reef aquarium – into Australia's national centre of excellence for tropical coral reef education, making it a premium international tourism destination as COVID-19 restrictions ease.

This funding is in addition to the $40.1 million already provided to Reef HQ by the Government since 2019 to upgrade the facility and help boost Great Barrier Reef tourism.

The upgrade will provide visitors with a range of immersive experiences and revitalised exhibits, including educational activities, hands-on experiences, onsite diving programs, scientific demonstrations and the use of interactive technology.

The redevelopment of Reef HQ will also contribute to the revitalisation of the Townsville City Waterfront Priority Development Area, which is one of the key objectives of the City Deal.

The Morrison Government is also providing a $15 million funding boost to the Royal Flying Doctor Service (Queensland Section), matched by a $15 million commitment from the Queensland Government, to expand its Townsville facilities to provide important medical services across the North Queensland region.

The two projects will ensure the Commonwealth’s original $195 million commitment to the Haughton Pipeline Stage 2 remains in Townsville, following the Queensland Government’s decision to sole-fund this project and deliver it outside the Townsville City Deal.

The CEO of GBRMPA with Australian Government Representatives at the City Deal announcement

Signed in 2016 by Deal Partners - the Australian and Queensland governments and Townsville City Council - the City Deal sets out a comprehensive plan to grow the economy of Townsville by supporting the city

The Townsville City Deal is a 15 year agreement to the value of $986.1m.

Signed in 2016 by Deal Partners - the Australian and Queensland governments and Townsville City Council - the City Deal sets out a comprehensive plan to grow the economy of Townsville by supporting the city to be, by 2030:

  • The economic gateway to Asia and Northern Australia.
  • A prosperous and lifestyle-rich city for its community and visitors.
  • A global leader in tropical and marine research and innovation.

The City Deal is transforming the Townsville region, creating sustainable jobs and attracting more investment for Townsville through infrastructure and planning projects that drive private sector investment, support existing and emerging economies, and boost local and Indigenous employment opportunities. Projects include the delivery of new transit, sporting facilities that enhance amenity and make Townsville a lifestyle-rich city for residents and visitors alike.

Frequently Asked Questions:

When will Reef HQ Aquarium reopen?

We are still anticipating that Reef HQ Aquarium will reopen in 2023, although it is likely to be late-2023. When our Principal Contractor has a timeline developed, we will be able to determine our reopening date with more certainty.

What has currently been delivered as part of the funding?

Reef HQ Aquarium closed to the public on 1st February, 2021 to begin preparations of the site before hand over to a Principal Contractor. This included:

  • Removing assets from site and storing in a location for the duration of the works.
  • Rehoming animals and decommissioning tanks. To date, 25 ancillary exhibits have been destocked with animals rehomed. (To learn more about animal rehoming, click here).
  • Delivery of the early works projects. The early works encompass a number of projects with the primary focus on resolving critical safety issues. Other projects were included within the scope due to the requirement to relocate and upgrade integrated systems at the same time. (To learn more about the early works, click here).

What works will the $40 million received through the Townsville City Deal fund?

Reef HQ Aquarium plays a vital role in educating the community about the importance of the Great Barrier Reef. The $40 million received under the Townsville City Deal funding, allows Reef HQ to undertake major upgrades as part of Stage 2 envisioned in our 20 year Reef HQ Aquarium Master Plan. Now fully funded, the 20 Year Master Plan will be fast-tracked to deliver the global destination of excellence in tropical coral reef education by late 2023.

This additional funding will provide delivery efficiency by completing the works simultaneously during the current public closure. It will also provide direct economic benefits to Townsville, create jobs in north Queensland, and act as a catalyst for marine science innovation across the region.

To learn more about Reef HQ Aquarium’s Master Plan, click here.