Busselton Jetty Inc have released big plans to build a new wold class underwater observatory and hope to raise $30 million over the next 10 years to fund the project.
The structure would be the first of its kind in Australia incorporating underwater dining and accommodation facilities.
It is expected the underwater observatory will be able to entertain 180 visitors every hour with visitor numbers increasing by four times the current figures.
Busselton Jetty chief executive officer Lisa Shreeve said BJI had met with private sector fundraisers who believe they can obtain $10 million in tax deductible donations to build the new underwater observatory.
Ms Shreeve said that BJI would seek the rest of the funding from money which was earned through tours, ticket passes and train rides along with a possible loan.
She said BJI would also look at ways to source money from crowdfunding, fundraising and grants and it was expected that the new structure would contribute $1.1 million in funding to preserve the jetty.
“We need to start planning now because the current underwater observatory will not last forever and it currently is the major source of funds for the ongoing preservation of the jetty,” she said.
“There is also public demand for a bigger underwater observatory that is more interactive and immersive.”
Ms Shreeve said currently 130,000 tickets to walk the jetty were purchased each year, with about five per cent being bought by locals.
“Most locals visit the jetty before the interpretive centre opens at no charge, or after it closes at no charge, which are the best fishing times and children are free,” she said.
“Without tourists paying for walk tickets, tour or train rides locals would not have a fully restored jetty to enjoy.”
The new underwater observatory will be built north-west of the existing underwater observatory which could reach the end of its lifespan in 2035.
BJI chairperson Jenny Sheehan said it was critical that the organisation planned for the future to ensure that income earned from tours continued to support maintenance to ensure the jetty remained structurally well.
“This is just the start of a potential 10 year process working with key stakeholders and the community to ensure that the 14 year old existing underwater observatory which brings in over $2 million per year in tourist dollars, can be replaced at the end of its life, or re-purposed to meet growing demand from increased tourist numbers,” she said.
Ms Sheehan said the BJI board was working through all of the options in a feasibility study looking into the project with key partners before putting together a long term plan.
“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.”