Dinosaur cave must reopen: Malone
ONE of Mount Morgan's major tourism draws, the dinosaur footprints in the fire clay caverns at the old gold mine, has been sealed off indefinitely.
Local MP Ted Malone yesterday called the decision a "stake through the heart of the community," and called for an urgent rethink.
"Mt Morgan's only industry is tourism but the government is happy to kill this industry and the businesses that rely on it," he said.
The Mines Department closed the caverns last October citing three rock falls in 18 months in the unique cave where dinosaur footprints are visible on the roof.
Mr Malone, the Member for Mirani, said the caverns were a key tourist attraction in the historic mining town and livelihoods were at stake.
"There's no argument that public safety is paramount," he said.
"But no one has been hurt and with all the geotechnical expertise we have these days, surely a solution can be found. We need a commonsense answer - whether that be pinning sections of the cavern ceilings or covering sections of the walkways with protective mesh."
He said he wanted to raise the matter in State Parliament but doubted whether he would get a chance because of the forthcoming election.
"Rather than close it down the government should be looking to invest in this enterprise so it stays open. It is unique in the world and attracts people from far and wide," he said.
John Steinberger, who operated TMC Tours which takes visitors to see the caverns as part of its mine site tour, said the dinosaur footprints were the highlight.
"People who come to Mt Morgan to see this historic site spend money in the town," he said.
Mary Carroll, chief executive of the regional tourism body Capricorn Enterprise, said the value of the caverns could not be over-stated.
"Millions of dollars have been spent over the years promoting the features of Mt Morgan and there are 5000 visitors each year, drawn to see the footprints.
"The attraction is a major part of our promotional literature for our region and the message has been sent all over Australia and the world.
"If this was one of Brisbane's major tourism attractions I suspect it would be sorted out quickly and with the minimum of fuss," she said.
Both Mr Malone and Ms Carroll are calling for various government departments to work together to get the caverns opened at the earliest opportunity, whatever the cost.
Mayor Brad Carter said he wanted to appeal to the Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation to use some basic common sense and courtesy in dealing with tourism issues and the old Mt Morgan mine site.
"While I can appreciate that safety is a matter of concern, they also need to recognise that our community in Mt Morgan is suffering while they sit in their ivory tower in Brisbane pontificating over the matter.
"This has not just arisen, as there has been a report before the department going back many months.
"Tours through the mine are iconic and the cavern is a major feature.
"We have tourists who dive on the Great Barrier Reef, ride rapids, climb mountains and bush walk, all of which have risks that can be assessed and managed.
"Officers from DEEDI need to get off their hands, out of their ivory towers and do something positive to support our Mt Morgan tourism operators and the community.
"This is my old department and it was showing signs of becoming moribund when I left to pursue a new life in local government where I felt I could make a much more positive contribution to the community."