Hey, Premier! Sink $5m into this!

Townsville's Museum of Underwater Art working Group is lobbying State Government for $5 million to make the installation a reality IMAGE: Jason deCaires Taylor

The working group for Townsville’s proposed Museum of Underwater Art (MOUA) has presented its plans to State Government with a request for $5 million to fund the project over three years.

With corporate and community contributions already exceeding $700,000, representatives from the MOUA project team have presented the project to Minister Assisting the Premier on North Queensland, Coralee O’Rourke MP. Mrs O’Rourke said cultural tourism was more important than ever for Australia.

“That’s the thing we’re seeing with tourism nowadays: people want to be able to write home with photos of all the different experiences they’ve had. We used to just go and chill on the beach or walk in the bush, but now it’s about all the different experiences, and I think the Museum of Underwater Art is going to provide that unique experience to anyone that comes to our area,” Mrs O’Rourke said.

“I think taking any opportunity to explore culture within our local environment should be grabbed with both hands. This is particularly significant with one of the underwater art installations proposed to be located on Palm Island coinciding with their 100-year celebration next year, so is identifying those stories from different cultures and sharing them with the local community and visitors to actually get an understanding of where we’ve come from.”

Townsville Enterprise Director of Tourism & Events Bridget Woods said the MOUA project had the potential to create 182 direct and indirect jobs for North Queensland, including opportunities for local artists.

“The great thing about working with Jason [deCaires Taylor, MOUA artist] and having him involved in the project is he works in a collaborative nature; so he’ll bring some of his team with him to Townsville and also really wants to engage with the art community here. The community will absolutely be involved in some of the pieces included, with a very strong focus on collaboration,” Bridget said.

With MOUA expected to expand the Townsville region’s tourism sector by $40 million, there are some questions over whether the North’s tourism operators will be ready for a significant increase in visitors.

“With a project of this scale, it will be built over a three-year period: so enables the tourism industry to prepare for the increase in visitation that we expect from the project, and we’ll work very closely with local industry to ensure they’re ready for the influx. They’ll be ready for it,” Bridget said.

“We’ve been very fortunate to be working with [Coralee] and the State Government on the project, and now it’s about looking at the next funding steps. We’ve been able to secure $700,000 from the corporate community here in Townsville North Queensland, which shows the community is coming together to make this project a reality.

“We can do the project with a smaller amount, but for it to be globally significant and make the serious statement we want for the piece on the Great Barrier Reef, just over $5 million is the figure we’re looking for.”

If funding the project is successful, construction on the Museum of Underwater Art is expected to begin mid-2018. For examples of Jason deCaires Taylor’s previous work, click here.

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