Since December 2019, the Australian Government have invested $80.1 million in the refurbishment of Reef HQ Aquarium.
- The original funding of $26.9 million was for capital works that relate to demolition, replacement and upgrade to ageing infrastructure at our 34-year-old facility. The aggressive tropical environment and stress that has resulted from holding in excess of 4 million litres of salt water, have impacted the facility since its build. Some of the works include upgrades to the coral reef exhibit, the predator tank, Turtle Hospital and back-of-house areas.
- As part of the Government’s COVID19 Relief and Recovery Fund to assist Great Barrier Reef tourism and the North Queensland regional economy, we received $7.6 million for the upgrade and maintenance to the animal life support systems, and to improve visitor access to the facility with a modern new facade and a new admissions and foyer area at the Aquarium.
- As part of the October 2020 Federal Budget, Reef HQ received $5.6 million for upgrades to exhibits to refresh the visitor experience. Included in this funding, the Authority is undertaking a consultation process with Reef Traditional Owners to co-design Connection to Sea Country exhibitions to improve understanding of cultural knowledge and the protection and promotion of Indigenous heritage values of the Great Barrier Reef.
- Lastly, the Australian Government, Queensland Government and Townsville City Council are working together to build Townsville's appeal as an international education and training destination investing $40 million in Reef HQ Aquarium as part of the Townsville City Deal.
The redevelopment of Reef HQ Aquarium is a keystone project within Townsville's Waterfront Priority Development Area and supports the Townsville 2020 vision to create world-class experiences to drive economic growth through new investment and greater tourism spending. The designs will be refined through a co-design process with the Traditional Owners of the land on which the Aquarium is built, the Wulgurukaba people.
Reef HQ Aquarium closed on February 1st, 2021 to begin works.
Works that will benefit the visitor experience
Rekindle an iconic façade for the Aquarium
For many years, Reef HQ’s public ‘face’ is the existing iconic spire of the Omnimax Theatre that is due to be demolished with the redevelopment of the adjacent site. A new façade will create a distinctive and clearly identifiable landmark for the aquarium, and enhance street appeal and accessibility for the visitor.
Renewal of the foyer
The front of house entry will be redesigned to become a modern and functional foyer for visitor access. This includes an upgrade to technology, such as self-serving kiosks and turnstiles, to enhance the operating efficiency to improve the visitor service experience.
Reinvigoration of exhibits to complement a new narrative journey
The visitor experience and educational content will be enriched, through a narrative journey and reinvigorated exhibits that include immersive, hands on experiences, scientific demonstrations and modernisation of interactive technology.
- The formation of the Reef - The beginning of the visitor experience will form an emotional connection to the Reef, telling Reef Traditional Owner's connection to Sea Country and the science behind the world's largest coral reef system.
- What makes the Reef great - This portion of the journey highlights the biodiversity of catchments, the coral, the animals and the Reef itself to capture the visitor and provide awareness about what makes the Reef great and why we should care for it.
- Managing the Marine Park - This section of the narrative speaks to the users of the Reef and how we are working together to build the Reef's resilience to major threats, such as climate change, coastal development, land-based run-off, and threats from direct human use of the Reef.
- Protecting the Reef - The journey concludes by showcasing research being undertaken on the Reef and includes a rejuvenated Turtle Hospital to expand the guest experience and showcase conservation efforts more readily. The visitor leaves feeling empowered by the actions we are taking, and we can all take together, to care for the Reef.
As part of the exhibit revitalisation, the Authority is undertaking a consultation process with Reef Traditional Owners to co-design Connection of Sea Country exhibitions to improve understanding of cultural knowledge and the protection and promotion of Indigenous heritage values of the Great Barrier Reef.
Refreshment of the shipwreck ‘heritage’ exhibit
The backdrop in our predator tank is that of the SS Yongala, a shipwreck famous for its tragic sinking in 1911 and the iconic marine life that now aggregates there. Our replica, affected by time and the saltwater will be removed, with a new centrepiece designed and installed, providing educational opportunities to highlight the Great Barrier Reef’s heritage values.
Revitalisation of viewing windows for unobstructed views
The viewing windows into our two largest exhibits, the coral reef exhibit and predator tank, will have the steel mullions in the centre removed. Removing these mullions will provide unobstructed views into our premier exhibits.
Reef Education Hub
This location will better cater for groups and repeat visitors through interactive, hands-on learning areas and exhibits.
Upper Level Opportunities
The upper level presents opportunities for extensive redevelopment. Opportunities include:
- Enlarged hands on learning facilities
- High calibre coral propagation setup to encourage visiting academics
- Dive hub training room for increased product offering for visitors, education groups, tour groups and stakeholders working within the Reef space.
* Please note: All concept images are subject to change.
Works that are necessary that visitors won’t see
Modifications, upgrades and repairs, including waterproofing, are required for a number of external and internal areas due to concrete corrosion, which has been caused from years of heat, humidity and / or saltwater ingress. This includes:
- Walls of the wave machine
- Elements on the observation deck: gantry crane posts, waterproof membrane on the deck, and steel canopy that supports some of our solar panels.
- Walls of the generator room
- Upgrades to the dive lock and a dive supervision hub
A number of mechanical services require replacing as they have come to the end of their life. This includes air conditioning units, sand filters and protein skimmers (which assist in the life support of our exhibits to ensure water is clean and at optimum condition for our marine life), and control systems / software that monitor the tanks and trigger alarms should a fault occur that requires investigation.
The majority of the electrical infrastructure is nearly 30 years old and requires maintenance and upgrades to meet current standards. A substation and our main switchboard requires relocation, including the replacement of cabling and field distribution boards.
We will undertake a complete upgrade of our security systems, including our CCTV system, access control and deterrents.
Some hydraulic services will be modified, replaced or repaired as part of the retrofit actions in other works, including the relocation of a stormwater drain and mains water supply for the new fire hydrant system.
During our closure
Reef HQ Aquarium will continue to engage with the community, through: