World-first plans for Jetty

Pierra WillixBusselton Dunsborough Times

Busselton Jetty has unveiled plans to move and expand its underwater observatory into a world-first facility complete with a natural aquarium, underwater dining experience and accommodation.

A feasibility study conducted by Busselton Jetty Inc found the development — slated to be built to the north-west of the existing one — could increase visitor numbers by four times the current figure.

BJI chairwoman Jenny Sheehan said planning was key to ensuring continued income for the jetty maintenance fund, but this was just the start of what could be a decade-long process.

“This new underwater observatory will be a world first and one of only five natural aquariums in the world, accommodating up to 180 people per hour with larger windows, more artificial reef in the water and interactive technology inside the building,” she said.

Busselton City Mayor Grant Henley said the plans presented an opportunity to develop a “world-class attraction” and would help the long-term viability of the facility.

“We need to keep improving it to make sure it doesn’t get stale and stagnate,” he said.

However, Cr Henley said its future depended on funding.

The current observatory brings in more than $2 million each year in tourist dollars, but could reach the end of its lifespan in 2035.

The possibility of selling the current observatory to pay for the new facility has also been touted, with the potential for it to become a marine laboratory research institute or underwater hotel.

Ms Sheehan said the BJI board would be working through all of the options in the feasibility study with key partners before putting together a long-term project plan for its development and a range of funding avenues would be explored.

“We have approval for donations to be 100 per cent tax-deductible to build the new underwater observatory so we hope to attract private sector donations as well as Government and community support,” he said.

The plans were due to be unveiled at the Busselton Jetty’s annual general meeting last night.

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