Embattled Gold Coast theme park Dreamworld has reopened in time to capitalise on Queensland’s school holiday crowds although it will miss out on interstate tourists with the state’s borders remaining closed.
Crowds flocked on Wednesday to Dreamworld and its sister attractions WhiteWater World which have been shut for six months because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The reopening comes two months after operator Ardent Leisure pleaded guilty to three charges relating to the deaths of four people on the Thunder River Rapids ride in 2016.
Dreamworld is the last of the main theme parks on the Gold Coast to welcome back guests although it will have restricted capacity and, other than those in the ‘border bubble’ postcodes on the southeast Queensland border, it will have next to no NSW visitors.
Queensland’s border will remain closed to NSW until there are 28 consecutive days of non-community transmission although that may be revised down to 14 days when the Palaszczuk Government reviews border restrictions at the end of September.
The border is completely closed to Victorians.
Pressure is mounting on the state government to at least lift restrictions for people coming from the ACT which has recorded no virus cases for 65 days.
Dreamworld will operate under a COVID-safe plan which means more than half a dozen attractions will be closed while the absence of international tourists has forced the temporary closure of the Corroboree precinct.
“Some areas and attractions within our Dreamworld Corroboree precinct are temporarily closed, due to restricted international tourism and therefore visitation,” Ardent Leisure said in a statement.
While the Thunder River Rapids was decommissioned after the tragedy four years ago, two more attractions will be notably absent as well.
“The Big Red Car and Flowrider have been permanently retired as a result of our attraction review,” the company said.
Dreamworld’s Chief Operating Officer Greg Yong said several hundred staff had been engaged to reopen the park with more expected to come online during the school holidays.
“I talk a lot about Dreamworld employees, we have close to 1000 Dreamworld employees, but I think what is really important is a lot of associated businesses really rely on Dreamworld to survive as well,” he said.
“Butchers, bakers, builders, transportation providers, hotels, there are so many people who rely on Dreamworld to survive.”
Sanitiser stations will be positioned throughout the theme park and social distancing reinforced.
To separate rider groups, seats will be left vacant in line with ride manufacturer consultation and character appearances will be contact free to prevent guest-to-guest transmission.
However, because of the need to have a comprehensive and Queensland Health approved COVID Safe, several attractions will not open during the pandemic.
The attractions include the Mad Jungle Jam, Play School Art Room iPads, Animal Experiences and the Lego Interactive Building Area.