I rise tonight to highlight a wonderful project that is currently under construction in my electorate: the Cairns Aquarium and Reef Research Centre. By April 2017 Cairns will have a $54 million, world-class, 7,500 square metre, three-level public aquarium and reef research centre, which will promote Australia's premier natural asset, the Great Barrier Reef. 15,000 fish and animals will be showcased in 69 lifelike exhibits in a family friendly, affordable, safe and fully immersive experience in the heart of Cairns CBD.
With over four million visitors a year to Australia's tropical north, the Cairns aquarium will provide a world-class venue for seeing and interacting with the incredible plants, animals and inhabitants found only in Australia's Wet Tropics, a region which borders two world heritage listed environments, the Daintree rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef.
Cairns aquarium company directors Daniel Leipnik and Andrew Preston initiated the project in 2011. By 2012 they had purchased a 4,000-square-metre parcel of land in the Cairns CBD within walking distance of shops, hotels and other attractions.
The project has secured a significant amount of private investment, and was one of the first to benefit under the Australian government's Tourism Major Project Facilitation service as well as the Tourism Industry Regional Development Fund and AusIndustry funding. On completion it will be a significant revenue-generating attraction for northern Australia, which will facilitate substantial economic development, increased visitor numbers, increased visitor spend, increased visitor stay nights and return visitation. It will help to diversify the region's tourism offerings by providing a new and innovative approach to showcasing the flora and fauna of the Wet Tropics to a growing tourism market, and it will play a key role in the ongoing revitalisation of the Cairns CBD.
The project will create 650 jobs by November 2016 in the construction and pre-operational stages, with 130 fulltime positions in the operational stage from April 2017 onwards. It will deliver investment into the region of some $35 million for construction services and materials, including $11.5 million of international investment, with substantial flow-on benefits to the regional economy. Once operational, it will generate almost $20 million in revenue per year and a combined $8 million in taxes each year to the three levels of government, as well as $8 million in export sales per year through sales of tickets to overseas visitors.
In addition, the aquarium will help to cement Cairns's position as a centre of excellence in reef research, continuing the work being done through James Cook University and the Reef and Rainforest Research Centre. It will focus on creating awareness of the threats to the Great Barrier Reef and surrounding ecosystems and what can be done to protect these environments, including the work that is being carried out by federal and state governments through the Reef 2050 Plan.
The Cairns aquarium will also have a permanent team of experienced scientists and researchers, who will work with leading universities, TAFEs, CRCs and industry partners to develop marine science biotechnologies focussed on environmentally sustainable commercial outcomes. This is perfectly aligned with the federal government's National Innovation and Science Agenda. It has earned the support of key partners: RDA Far North Queensland and Torres Strait, Cairns Regional Council, Advance Cairns, the Reef and Rainforest Research Centre, James Cook University and the Cairns Chamber of Commerce.
Tonight I extend an invitation to my parliamentary colleagues to pay a visit to Cairns. I see over here Mr Evans, the member for Brisbane, and I invite you to come along; and of course I invite my friend the Speaker to come along to Cairns, along with all my other colleagues, and allow Daniel to take you on a tour of this amazing project so you can see first hand the substantial investment they are making in new reef-related marine tourism infrastructure.
I am also working with the aquarium to put in an application for government support under the upcoming Building Better Regions Fund. I am pleased that, under the BBRF, there is a focus on projects that create jobs and drive the economy in regional areas. The BBRF will invest in two streams: infrastructure projects and community investments, with the majority of the fund expected to go to infrastructure. I strongly support the Cairns aquarium.