FRIDAY 24 August, 2018 – A regional cultural tourism project that celebrates Australia’s national gemstone and is set to attract an extra 50,000 visitors to western NSW each year has today welcomed the NSW Government’s commitment to growing tourism in the State’s regional and rural destinations.

Announced this week by Minister for Tourism and Major Events, Adam Marshall, the initiative, which sets the State’s first-ever regional tourism target, will focus on doubling visitor expenditure in regional and rural NSW by 2030 and inject $22 million over the next 12 months into promotional marketing campaigns.

Australian Opal Centre president David Lane said the announcement was a great show of support by the NSW Government for tourism products and destinations in regional and rural areas, and also underscored how important these, at times, under-funded and overlooked tourism offerings were to growing the NSW economy.

“We are delighted Minister Marshall has chosen to shine the spotlight on investing in regional and rural NSW at a time when 100% of the State is currently in drought and many businesses, including those who receive a direct and indirect benefit through tourism, are doing it tough,” he said.

“Minister Marshall was very impressed by the Australian Opal Centre project when he visited Lightning Ridge in July of this year, and we are hopeful the NSW Government’s fresh focus on growing tourism in outback NSW will extend to supporting the development of our new state-of-the-art facility, which is set to inject $94 million and 345 jobs into the NSW economy during construction and $49 million per year thereafter.”

Located in Lightning Ridge, the home of Australia’s black opal, the new Australian Opal Centre building designed by internationally renowned architects Glenn Murcutt AO and Wendy Lewin will be a major national and international tourist attraction, showcasing Australian natural and cultural treasures including the world’s leading public collection of rare Australian opals and opalised fossils from the age of dinosaurs.

Scheduled for completion in 2020, it will serve as a hub for creativity, research, education, and economic and cultural development in one of the State’s most economically disadvantaged yet vibrant regions, and benefit all opal producing centres across Australia.

“The NSW Government has a key regional tourism infrastructure project available for investment right now in the long-awaited Australian Opal Centre – a high profile, uniquely Australian tourism destination that will be the largest inland tourist attraction west of Dubbo and a vital project for regional economic and cultural diversification and resilience,” Mr Lane said.

“We feel the expected half-a-million domestic and international visitors the Australian Opal Centre will generate by 2030 will go a long way to delivering the NSW Government’s ‘ambitious’ target of doubling visitor expenditure and will reinforce the message that world-class regional and rural tourism products are blooming across this State.

“It is refreshing to see the NSW Government commit to re-directing investment away from the usual sporting and tourism projects in Sydney and surrounds and towards quality regional and rural tourism offerings. We are hopeful this announcement translates to support for one of the State’s most pivotal regional tourism projects, the Australian Opal Centre.”

Member for Barwon Kevin Humphries said the new Australian Opal Centre was an economic and tourism gamechanger for western NSW.

“This nationally iconic project is my Number One tourism infrastructure priority for western NSW, and is expected to have high impacts on the visitor economy that will extend beyond the Orana region, throughout NSW and into inland Australia,” Mr Humphries said.

“There is growing demand for destination experiences, and cultural and heritage tourism is also on the rise; the Australian Opal Centre, a world-class flagship tourist attraction, will meet this demand in spades, showcasing one of the nation’s most unique industries and its people, alongside our beautiful and rare State and National gemstone.”

Mr Humphries said the project was one everyone would benefit from, including the Australian opal industry, state tourism operators, and the western NSW community through increased global awareness of Australian opal, growth in visitation, creation of hundreds of new jobs, and improved local and regional infrastructure.

“We are always trying to diversify out of traditional income bases, which isn’t easy in rural sectors. Once completed, this facility will attract international acclaim and increase visitation to the Walgett Shire to well beyond 100,000 annually, providing new and increased economic opportunities for years to come - it is all good news.

“We’re currently working with both State and Federal governments to complete this project, targeting more than $20 million in funding through the NSW Government’s Regional Growth - Environment and Tourism Fund and Regional Cultural Fund, and the Federal Government’s Building Better Regions Fund.”

Olivia Ward

Phone: 0400 225 751