Australia’s own underwater wonder

Famed underwater sculptor, Jason deCaires Taylor will soon visit Townsville and North Queensland, scoping a site for his next underwater gallery as a means of boosting tourism and protection for the Great Barrier Reef.


Photography by Jason deCaires Taylor

The concept of an underwater art museum off the coast of Townsville is being hailed as a “game changer” for the region’s marine tourism industry.

Acclaimed international artist Jason deCaires Taylor will visit North Queensland in July to scope out the possibility for a Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Underwater Art Museum.

It would be the first of its kind in the southern hemisphere, spearheaded by SeaLink Queensland, Reef Ecologic, Townsville City Council, Palm Island Shire Council, James Cook University and Townsville Enterprise.

“If the scale of our investment is significant enough it has the potential to create a local marine tourism industry that we don’t currently have that’ll encompass both the arts and our indigenous heritage,” said SeaLink Travel Group regional general manager, Paul Victory.

“It’ll support the current dive operators we do have, by not trying to replicate what Cairns or the Whitsundays do but providing something absolutely unique, that will bring hundreds of thousands of divers to the region every year based on the popularity of the artist’s existing sites.”

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The world’s first underwater art museum, created by deCaires Taylor off the coast of Grenada in 2006, is now listed by National Geographic as one of the Top 25 Wonders of the World and The Museo Subacuático de Arte off the coast of Cancun, Mexico, created by Taylor in 2009, resulted in an increase of annual visitor numbers of almost 400,000.

“In 2016 his works achieved a global press reach of 700 million viewers — this is a strategic opportunity for Townsville to follow in these footsteps and develop an internationally recognised experience on the Great Barrier Reef,” said Townsville Enterprise CEO, Patricia O’Callaghan.

Townsville Mayor Jenny Hill said the proposal represented the opportunity to create an interactive experience that’s unique as it will “change and evolve over the years” and Palm Island Mayor Alf Lacey said that the project would provide “a unique opportunity to further its first people stories and also provide a much-needed economic development opportunity”.

Reef Ecologic director Dr Paul Marshall said it would provide a “new generation of education and engagement opportunities” to bring attention and support efforts to protect the Reef.

“An underwater art museum opens up a whole new suite of options for locals and tourists to connect with the reef,” he said, adding that protection was at the forefront of all initiatives.

The project team are currently financing the scoping and feasibility stage, but will seek a public-private partnership model to fund the complete project if they give it the green light following deCaires Taylor’s visit.

www.underwatersculpture.com

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