'Severe threat' undermines major CQ tourism project
ROCKHAMPTON Mayor Margaret Strelow says pushing ahead with the Mt Morgan fireclay caverns is an "absolute necessity" despite the Queensland Government seeminlgy pouring cold water on the project.
Earlier this week Mines Minister Anthony Lynham hit back at the new Member for Mirani Stephen Andrew after the One Nation MP said "we need some action there, this is a time now for moving forward, I will do whatever it takes".
Mr Lynham penned a letter to The Morning Bulletin saying Mr Andrew should have picked up the phone and he'd have been able to tell him of the severe safety risks.
"All of the investigations to date have identified severe safety risks at the Mount Morgan fireclay caverns," Mr Lynham said.
According to Mr Andrew's office in June 2017, a private firm Cardno began an investigation into the safety of the caverns.
A feasibility study was established and the findings from the report was yet to be released.
Mr Lynham said independent safety experts had "assessed the site to be so dangerous for people that remotely controlled drones have been considered for further testing".
"The bottom line is the current site is unsafe for the public," Mr Lynham said.
He said the state government was focussed on jobs, but experts needed to agree the site was safe before people could enter.
"My Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy has continued to keep local stakeholders, including Rockhampton Regional Council, up to date about the site," Mr Lynham said.
"Senior departmental staff are seeking to update Rockhampton Regional Council on the current state of the caverns on site at Mount Morgan in the next fortnight."
During the election campaign Labor's candidate Jim Pearce pledged his support for the project.
"I can understand why it is taking time because we need to ensure the caves will be a safe place for people to continue to visit - and safety at any tourist attraction is always paramount," Mr Pearce said.
Meanwhile, Rockhampton Regional Council mayor Margaret Strelow said the full re-opening of the caverns was "an absolute necessity".
"We know it'll cost money to make safe and reopen but that shouldn't be the barrier, especially if we can secure the support of all levels of government to make it happen," Mayor Strelow said.
"What we are asking for at the moment is for the Queensland Government to release the latest report so we can begin lobbying for funding."
Cr Strelow said the caverns has the potential to become one of the region's major tourism features.
"When combined with a working gold mine from Carbine Resources, the historic town itself and an excellent local museum, it is a complete tourism package which will appeal to multiple markets, especially the drive market," she said.
Mr Andrew said he would continue to push for the release of the "latest feasibility studies for the re-opening of the Fireclay Caves".
"I am fully aware of the safety issues at hand and I am in 100% agreeance with Minister Lynham on the issue of 'safety for the public' being a priority," Mr Andrew said.
Mr Andrew welcomed an opportunity to discuss the matter and others concerning Mount Morgan with Minister Lynham.
He wanted to see what steps could be taken to move forward with Mount Morgan projects "to allow for the huge potential of economic growth and job creation in the area".
"This is a time for moving forward and working together as elected Queensland Government representatives for the benefit of the people and the community of Mount Morgan as a whole," Mr Andrew said.
About the Fireclay Caverns
- They were excavated between 1906 and 1927 for clay to supply local brick making.
- Clay was mined from the caverns with a pick and shovel and transported to the mine by underground rail.
- Excavation stopped when the mine no longer needed the clay.
- The caverns attracted tourists because of the dinosaur footprints which could be seen on the sandstone ceiling.