Busselton Jetty: Australian Underwater Discovery Centre placed on backburner amid $25 million price blowout

Taylar AmoniniBusselton Dunsborough Times
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Leading in popularity for the potential Australian Underwater Discovery Centre design is The Cetacean, which pays homage to the whale migration along Geogrpphe Bay.
Camera IconLeading in popularity for the potential Australian Underwater Discovery Centre design is The Cetacean, which pays homage to the whale migration along Geogrpphe Bay. Credit: Supplied/Supplied/Supplied

The highly anticipated Australian Underwater Observatory planned for the Busselton Jetty has been placed on the backburner after the project was re-scoped due to cost blowouts.

Under a proposal submitted to the City of Busselton this month, the Busselton Jetty Inc has divided it’s original plan for a village and the Australian Underwater Discovery Centre into two stages.

The observatory has been placed on the back burner until funds can be secured.

While the Jetty Village will go ahead as part of stage one of the proposal, the centre will only go ahead once funds are secured after it was deemed unviable.

The new dual stage proposal comes four years after the Busselton council approved a proposal for a Jetty Village to be built at the end of the jetty and the Federal Government committed $13 million towards the observatory in 2019.

Artist designs of the proposed Busselton Jetty food and beverage village.
Camera IconArtist designs of the proposed Busselton Jetty food and beverage village. Credit: Supplied

However, plans hit a roadblock a month before construction was set to begin when contractor Subcon revealed the project would come in $25m above budget - a 50 per cent cost blow out.

Due to the overloaded construction market resulting from Covid-19, the project saw a 63 per cent increase in material costs, a 280 per cent increase in shipping costs and a 40 per cent increase in labour costs.

At the time of the cost revelations, Jetty chief executive said the board would be frantically seeking a $20m solution.

“If we could delay the project we would, in the hope that the construction market cools down, however, our grant funding relies on the AUDC Cetacean being built by June 2023 which just doesn’t give us any room to move,” she said.

Final design of the internal structure of the new Australian Underwater Discovery Centre at the end of the Busselton Jetty.
Camera IconFinal design of the internal structure of the new Australian Underwater Discovery Centre at the end of the Busselton Jetty. Credit: Supplied

Should the City approve the new plans at this week’s council meeting the Jetty Village will include an Australian Marine Park interpretation zone, a glass bottom submarine for underwater viewing, night water dining, three function areas, an exhibition space, a food and beverage village and three new marine themes electric vehicles.

The proposal will be reviewed and decided upon by councillors at Wednesday’s ordinary council meeting and if approved, be subject to ministerial approval.

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