Phillip Thompson and CEO Josh Thomas as $30 million in funding is announced for Townsville's Reef HQ. PICTURE: MATT TAYLOR.
Phillip Thompson and CEO Josh Thomas as $30 million in funding is announced for Townsville's Reef HQ. PICTURE: MATT TAYLOR.

‘Critical’ repairs: Major attraction faces year-long closure

TOWNSVILLE'S ageing Reef HQ is in such a "critical" state of disrepair much of its structure is no longer safe, a new report has found, as details of when the tourism venue will close for renovations is revealed.

The Flinders St facility, home of the world's largest living coral reef aquarium, is due to undergo a four-year Federal Government-funded $26.9 million upgrade from mid-2020.

But for the first time, a detailed government report has revealed just how badly the facelift is needed.

Reef HQ, run by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, generates about $2.5 million a year, boast 15,000 members, attracts 140,000 visitors a year and employs about 50 Townsville locals.

The GRMPA submission to a federal parliamentary committee also outlined the impacts the four-year upgrade will have on the community and staff, with Reef HQ scheduled to close for up to 12 months from early 2021 as major works are conducted.

GBRMPA/Reef HQ in Townsville City.
GBRMPA/Reef HQ in Townsville City.

The facility, built in 1987, has sustained physical deterioration to a point where "serious risks are emerging" and supporting infrastructure is now in many ways not compliant with national standards.

This includes the viewing windows to its coral reef exhibit and predator tank, which is made of acrylic that is now "beyond all known life expectancy", and the Yongala shipwreck exhibit, which is falling apart.

The walls of Reef HQ's highly-critical substation, the failure of which could kill the world renowned reef exhibit, is "at risk of collapse", while the external wall facing Ross Creek is "shifting".

The Queensland Police Service have also advised Reef HQ that a lack of security cameras have allowed some offenders, mainly on liquor and theft crimes to get away, and visitor safety has been impacted, including a domestic violence assault that once happened inside.

It is expected that a head contractor will be picked by the end of June this year and Reef HQ will shut from February 1, 2021 and reopen when construction is complete, expected to be November 31, 2021. Casual retail and education staff will lose shifts.


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