Cairns Aquarium and Reef Research Centre has won the 2018 Master Builders Queensland award for Project of the Year, as well as for Tourism and Leisure Facilities over $10 million.

Only the second ‘tier 2’ company to win the award in 15 years, FKG Group received the distinction at the awards ceremony held at the Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre on October 12.

Completed in August 2017, the $41.6 million design and construct project was delivered on time and within budget, giving Cairns a world-class tourism facility expected to attract more than 500,000 visitors per year.

FKG Group’s operations manager, Barry Smith says, “Building an aquarium is a one-off experience, with Cairns Aquarium the first completed in Australia in 18 years. Its unique nature posed new challenges, including the supply and installation of the acrylic panels, life support systems, fibreglass exhibit tanks and both wet and dry theming works, all with long lead times.”

He noted that the project required extensive collaboration with international suppliers, including from Asia, Europe and North America.

“The aquarium’s 40 acrylic panels that were installed to the large in-situ tanks were supplied by an Italian company and the logistics of getting them shipped around the world and then freighted by road with police escorts from Brisbane to Cairns was a project in itself,” Mr Smith says.

“The life support systems were designed, supplied and installed by a company from Florida, with pumps, filters, fractionators and controls being sourced globally. And the wet and dry side theming works were carried out by a workforce of specialist artisans, mainly from Thailand.”

FKG Group’s managing director, Nick Gardner, praised the project team for overcoming numerous challenges to deliver the specialist project.

“The complexity of the build was immense, given the nature of the attraction and the specialised tanks and materials needed to construct them, including nearly 70 individual exhibits in the aquarium’s design. This project has highlighted FKG Group’s ability to deliver technical and client service excellence, based on meticulous planning and innovative solutions,” he says.