Paynters to lead Townsville’s Reef HQ Aquarium refurbishment

An $80.1 million refurbishment of the Australian Government’s global education centre for the Great Barrier Reef is one step closer, with the appointment of the project’s principal contractor.

Paynters has been appointed by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) to oversee the renewal of its 34-year-old facility Reef HQ Aquarium in Townsville, Queensland.

The contract between Paynters and GBRMPA will cover all works under the now fully funded Reef HQ 20-year Master Plan.

The Reef HQ refurbishment is funded by the Australian Government as part of the Townsville City Deal.

The project will transform Reef HQ, the world’s largest living coral reef aquarium, into Australia's national centre of excellence for tropical coral reef education, making it a premium international tourism destination as COVID-19 restrictions ease.

The new-look Reef HQ will include immersive experiences and revitalised exhibits with educational activities, hands-on experiences, onsite diving programs, scientific demonstrations and the use of interactive technology.

Reef HQ Aquarium closed 1 February 2021 to prepare the facility for the works. It is expected to reopen at the end of 2023.

More information on the Townsville City Deal is available at

Quotes attributable to Federal Minister for Communications, Urban Infrastructure, Cities and the Arts, the Hon Paul Fletcher MP:

“This is a major milestone in the redevelopment Reef HQ - a project that will create more than 300 jobs, drive economic growth in and play a role in the revitalisation of the city as a world-class tourism attraction and education centre.

“The Morrison Government has committed $80.1 million in funding for this important initiative, including $40 million as part of the Townsville City Deal, which is helping to drive investment in critical community infrastructure projects that will help position the city as a vibrant and liveable destination for years to come.”

Quotes attributable to Minister for the Environment, the Hon Sussan Ley MP:

“The Reef HQ aquarium is ideally placed to be at the heart of a world-leading marine science precinct, showcasing Townsville’s reputation as an international leader in marine science, research and education.

“Once completed, the rejuvenation of the much-loved Reef HQ will showcase the complexity and wonder of the Reef to new generations, confirming Townsville as the place to research and care for the Reef and its amazing marine life.

“Our team are working tirelessly on the planning, construction, and the new design to deliver an outstanding Reef education experience when it reopens.”

Quotes attributable to Federal Member for Herbert Phillip Thompson MP:

“Reef HQ is one of Townsville’s most recognisable tourist attractions, and this project will see it become our national centre of excellence for coral reef education.

“We were already investing in significant repair works to guarantee the facility’s life for decades to come, so to be able to go this extra step, do it once, and do it properly, is great for the community, visitors and the staff.

“Our city needs jobs and that’s exactly what this project delivers, while also revitalising and rejuvenating an area of the CBD in need of a bit of a facelift.”

Quotes attributable to Paynters’ North Queensland Manager Michael Koen:

“I am incredibly proud to see my team delivering this unique, community driven project.

“This is a key project of significant value for the Townsville region that presents a number of flow-on opportunities during the construction phase. 

“This includes jobs for apprentices, school-based trainees, and local subcontractors, as well as Indigenous participation in jobs and other opportunities through the supply chain servicing the project” Mr Koen said.