The popular Underwater Observatory at the end of the Busselton Jetty is set to become the largest in Australia following $13 million in funding from the Federal Government’s Regional Growth Fund.
The redevelopment of the observatory will incorporate the largest underwater windows in the world, new habitats, high-tech exhibitions, an underwater dining and function room, as well as educational and environmental learning spaces.
The observatory’s redevelopment is expected to boost both tourism and the economy for the region.
The Mayor of Busselton Grant Henley said these economic changes will increase revenue directly to the jetty and will employ more than 40 full time staff.
He said the jetty has been unusually successful and paid for the initial investment tenfold.
“At the moment the demand exceeds the capacity of the observatory.”
“If we can accommodate more people, then more people will visit Busselton and stay here for longer periods of time and spend more money in the local economy,” said Mr Henley.
“With the additional visitors, Busselton will be able to employ more people in town in accommodation and retail and every other area where tourism spending impacts our local economy,” he said.
Mr Henley said there is capacity in Busselton’s accommodation market for increased tourism.
Australia’s South West Chief Executive Officer Catrin Allsop said recent statistics show that Australia’s south-west region is experiencing growth from intrastate, interstate and international markets.
“When there is an increase in visitation to an attraction such as the Busselton Jetty, there is usually a flow-on effect for certain industries such as retail and food and beverage.”
She said Busselton currently has the capacity to deliver this.
The funding was announced shortly after Jetstar’s news that it would fly direct between Melbourne and Busselton.
The Busselton business community hopes the air service will be a catalyst for further investment and will provide an economic boost to the south-west.
“High awareness and appeal of the Margaret River region could attract about 400 additional visitors weekly to the area with the launch of the direct flights from Melbourne to Busselton,” said Ms Allsop.
“We are confident that with reduced travel time, visitors will be inspired to disperse and explore other parts of the south-west during their stay.”
Busselton resident Robin Reilly said the redevelopment is a good idea but its success will depend a lot on local support.
“Expectations are always high in terms of tourism but I think it’s a bit more complex than that,” she said.
“I do think the observatory will help a little with tourism, but I think our region is more known for its forests, wildlife and coastline.”
Marine Biologist and Busselton Observatory tour guide Neil Young said the new discovery centre will be fabulous.
“It’s going to increase not only tourism but also awareness and appreciation of the environment and the biodiversity under the Busselton jetty.”