18/10/2021 - 14:24

$32m observatory another step closer

18/10/2021 - 14:24

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A $32 million plan to build Australia’s largest natural marine observatory in the South West is another step closer, receiving the endorsement of the City of Busselton.

$32m observatory another step closer
The structure will stand at 20 metres and feature a reception and briefing area, outdoor terrace, a dining space, function room and an art gallery across four levels.Image: Baca Architects

A $32 million plan to build Australia’s largest natural marine observatory in the South West is another step closer, with the City of Busselton recommending it be approved by the development assessment panel.

The development application, lodged by town planning agency element on behalf of non-for-profit group Busselton Jetty Inc, includes the construction of a new four-storey whale-shaped Underwater Discovery Centre.

The structure, which will be connected to the existing jetty via a bridge, will stand at 20 metres and feature a reception and briefing area, outdoor terrace, a dining space, function room and an art gallery across four levels.

The proponent has also proposed the construction of a Jetty Village Precinct on the structure, with a restaurant capable of hosting 300 people.

Both structures, designed by Baca Architects, are expected to accommodate 450 patrons.

The new observatory will be fabricated off-site by Henderson-based subsea solutions company Subcon Blue Solutions and towed 185 kilometres to Busselton over three days, where it will be installed in eight metres of water 1.7km along the jetty.

The new village precinct will comprise several transportable modules, transferred via a construction barge to the jetty and assembled on top of it.

The Australian Underwater Discovery Centre project, spearheaded by community organisation Busselton Jetty Inc, has already received $22.5 million in state and federal government support and has been modelled on the existing 16-year-old observatory at the site.

According to the development application, the proposal is designed to accommodate the recent increase in visitation and boost revenue.

Busselton Jetty Inc stated that the recent increase in visitation to more than 550,000 patrons per year had put significant pressure on the existing observatory, the capacity of which is currently limited to 44 patrons.

The observatory is expected to be installed in late 2022, with the Busselton Jetty Inc having secured the remaining funds through reserves and a self-supporting loan with the local government.

Previous estimates published by Busselton Jetty Inc indicate the project would support almost 200 jobs during construction and hundreds more once operational, returning $200 million in economic benefit to WA.

The City of Busselton has recommended the Regional Joint Development Assessment approve the proposal, subject to a suite conditions.

The panel is expected to make a formal decision on the proposal next Monday, October 25.

The proposal has already been given the nod by other government agencies.

In August, the proposal was referred to the federal Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment.

With the site home to 68 threatened marine mammals, fish, reptiles and bird species, the proposal was lodged to address concerns about the threat of underwater noise generated by piling, marine debris, hydrocarbon spill and vessel strike listed among the most significant potential impacts of the proposed development.

In September, the EPA resolved not to assess the proposal, with chair Matthew Tonts concluding the likely environmental effects were not so significant as to warrant formal assessment based on the development envelope and short construction phase.

Professor Tonts said he was of the view that the potential impacts of the proposal could be adequately managed through various management and mitigation measures.

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