Ningaloo Reef to get research centre

The Shire of Exmouth is working with the Gascoyne Development Commission (GDC) to establish a world class research facility for the Ningaloo Reef. Situated on the tip of the North West Cape in Western Australia, Exmouth has long been recognised as a prime location for a research centre, focusing in particular on the Ningaloo Marine Park, Cape Range National Park and the Exmouth Gulf.

Comprising 200 species of hard corals and 50 species of soft corals, Ningaloo Reef is the second largest coral reef in Australia and the second largest fringing reef in the world.

As the largest coral reef in Australia, the Great Barrier Reef has no less than eight major research facilities based along it. By contrast, except for a Geraldton based aquaculture and fisheries research facility, there are no major research centres between Perth and Darwin.

Ningaloo Reef relies heavily on fly in/fly out scientists with no local base to carry out research activities.

Exmouth Shire President and GDC Deputy Chairman, Councillor Veronica Fleay, said increasing pressure from human activities has led to a demand for greater knowledge of the outstanding marine and terrestrial resources.

“The establishment of the Ningaloo Research Centre will provide much needed support for expeditionary research to the Ningaloo region,” she said “The Exmouth town site enjoys excellent access to the reef and is the only well serviced and supported site in the region. Research can be directed to the Exmouth Gulf, with a focus on commercial fisheries and potential salt mining operations, and the Ningaloo Reef, where environmental management and monitoring can take place.”

Councillor Fleay said the estimated capital cost of the centre is $17.2 million.

“We expect that cost to be jointly funded by the State and Federal Governments,” she said “Both parties have been cooperative to date and I am confident the development will go ahead.”

The Western Australian Government has already provided funding for the development of detailed designs, costings and the reservation of a site at the Exmouth Marina. Completed in 2004, the designs include ecologically sustainable design principles and the following features:

  • teaching laboratory facilities accommodating classes of 30 students
  • research laboratories and offices for 10 permanent research staff
  • administration and office areas
  • accommodation for researchers and their families, as well as student groups
  • seminar facilities accommodating 50 people
  • public education and interpretive centre
  • Government offices accommodating 34 people.

“The Ningaloo Research Centre will be a focal point for national and international research on a massive scale,” Councillor Fleay said. “It will bring researchers and tourists from all over the globe.

“Importantly, the research work will underpin continued commercial activities in the region, including valuable tourism and fishing sectors. The very valuable offshore oil and gas sectors, which are currently being developed, will also gain from any marine research that underpins their activities.”

Councillor Fleay expects funding agreements to be confirmed in coming months, with the facility completed by mid to end 2009.

For further information contact Councillor Fleay on 0429 206 506 or visit www.ningalooresearch.org