24/04/2019 - 10:01

Major plans for Busselton jetty

24/04/2019 - 10:01

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Named Australia’s third top tourist attraction at the Qantas Australian Tourism Awards and visited by a record 500,000-plus people in 2018, Busselton’s iconic jetty is currently the subject of detailed plans to expand its tourist offering.

The jetty at Busselton is a major South West tourism drawcard. Photo: Gabriel Oliveira

Named Australia’s third top tourist attraction at the Qantas Australian Tourism Awards and visited by a record 500,000-plus people in 2018, Busselton’s iconic jetty is currently the subject of detailed plans to expand its tourist offering.

Chief executive of the volunteer-run not-for-profit organisation that operates the jetty, Lisa Shreeve, told Business News there were three stages of development in the works, with the first of these –the creation of a food hub and education facility –currently in progress.

“The village project is stage one of expanding our experiences at the very end of the jetty,” Ms Shreeve said.

“At the moment we’ve got the underwater observatory out there, some whale murals and a couple of little things.

“We’ve surveyed about 7,000 people over the past three years and the number one request that comes back is food and beverage at the end of the jetty.”

She said the organisation was currently finalising the design in collaboration with the Australind-based arm of Sydney construction company SMC Marine, and Perth architects Finespun.

It is expected the village project will be complete by Christmas this year, weather permitting.

The Busselton Jetty organisation is run by volunteers, and oversees all businesses on the jetty, including the recently replaced train, underwater observatory, and all events and tours.

Twenty-five per cent of its revenue is given to the City of Busselton’s Jetty Maintenance Fund, to ensure the physical structure is preserved.

Dining events have already proven a big hit with visitors, with one notable example being that of Fortescue Metals Group chairman Andrew Forrest, who contributed $100,000 after attending an event at the underwater observatory.

Ms Shreeve said bigger plans were in the works, including the new $36 million Australian Underwater Discovery Centre (AUDC).

“The current underwater observatory has a lifespan until 2060; it’s a big concrete tube, and it’s quite small – it can only fit 44 people at a time,” she said.

“Based on our current numbers we’ll be full on all of our tours by 2023, so we have to build something bigger.”

The AUDC will fit 180 people, Ms Shreeve said, and once it was operational, the organisation would sell the old observatory.

A day spa, a casino, and a laboratory were all being considered, she said, regulations permitting.

Once the village and AUDC are complete, underwater accommodation and recreation experiences such as diving will be next on the discussion table.

While these developments may be years in the future, Ms Shreeve is confident that, based on consistent visitor growth, there is a strong appetite for the unique experiences provided by the jetty, particularly among families, culture seekers, and international tourists.

“At the moment there are only six natural aquariums in the world and ours is the biggest with the biggest windows, which is amazing because we have five levels in there, and some others just have little portholes,” she said.

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