New Cairns Aquarium Opens with High Returns for Investors


Showcasing more than 15,000 aquatic animals, fish, plants and other organisms across 71 live exhibits, the new $54 million Cairns Aquarium has opened to the public.

The highly-anticipated aquarium was debt-funded by Gieldan Capital, a joint venture between FIIG Securities and MH Carnegie & Co. After being unable to arrange bank financing, the aquarium developers turned to Gieldan to secure $32 million of funding from its investor base of family offices and high net worth investors.

The completion marks an important milestone for the project, which has delivered a high return for investors of over 19% internal rate of return.

Co-founders Daniel Leipnik and Andrew Preston saw the opportunity to bring the Great Barrier Reef to Cairns after observing how few tourists actually took to the water and were missing the delights of the fascinating and colourful marine life.

The opening marked almost six years since the Leipnik and Preston embarked on the project to bring the Aquarium to Cairns.

With over four million visitors a year to Australia’s tropical north, the multi-million dollar tourism infrastructure is set to become Cairns’ largest and newest attraction, providing a world class venue for seeing and interacting with incredible wildlife unique to Australia’s wet tropics.

cairns aquarium

Image: Peddle Thorp GroupNeil Sutton, Gieldan Capital’s managing director said, “We are delighted to have been instrumental in bringing together a visionary project, which will deliver new jobs, regional stimulus and a trophy tourism asset to Far North Queensland.

"Tourism in the region is experiencing unprecedented growth and this new asset will be a great beneficiary and will drive more interest in the region. The very real environmental stresses currently being experienced by the Great Barrier Reef means the Aquarium’s additional roles in education, research, endangered species breeding and rehabilitation will benefit the broader community for years to come.

"Our investors are thrilled, not only to have benefited from terrific returns, but to feel the satisfaction of being part of bringing this great project to life.”

The project has created over 150 jobs during construction and will provide over 100 staff positions on an ongoing basis. It is expected to generate almost $20m in revenues and 600,000 visitors per year.

The Aquarium’s restaurant also features a 13.5 metre, 70,000 litre tank featuring black tipped reef sharks and other colourful species.

The aquarium will also double as an interactive research and education centre that will convey world leading reef research focused on key North Australian fish and crustaceans. It will be dedicated to promoting environmental awareness and unique initiatives in areas such as seafood sustainability and conservation.

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