Trade and Investment Minister Andrew Robb today marked the start of construction on a state-of-the-art $50 million aquarium and reef research centre in Cairns, due for completion in 2017.

Mr Robb toured the site after attending the Northern Australia Investment Forum in Darwin earlier this week. The forum linked global investors with real projects across the region, including tourism projects. Tourism infrastructure is one of the government’s national investment priorities.

“Adding to our stock of high-quality tourism infrastructure is fundamental if we are to continue to attract more than our share of international visitors and the Cairns Aquarium is an example of what the future can hold,” he said.

The Cairns region attracts 4.8 million visitors annually, generating $3.1 billion for the local economy. The aquarium will be the only facility of its kind to simulate the habitats and ecosystems of Tropical North Queensland and is the first public aquarium to be built in Australia in 17 years.

“One of the key roles of government in supporting these types of projects is to help actively facilitate them through the approval process which can be quite daunting,” Mr Robb said.

In this case, Austrade provided a dedicated case manager through its Tourism Major Project Facilitation service, which helped fast-track the process.

Once operational, the aquarium and research centre will cover 7,500 square-metres over three levels. Visitors will be able to get up close with many of the region’s rare, unusual, even deadly creatures.

Some of the unique creatures the Cairns Aquarium plans to exhibit include seven-metre scrub pythons, giant blue earthworms, and box jellyfish along with more than 15,000 other animals, fish, plants, and other organisms.

“It will have a permanent, state-of-the-art reef research and technology development centre, which will research species for live export and also coral reef preservation.  It’s a great example of an innovative Australian business creating the very best facilities to attract visitors from around the world,” Mr Robb said.

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