A voice on a loudspeaker proclaimed: “It’s been a while… but we’re back”.
It wasn’t the same old Dreamworld, however.
Six weeks after a horror accident on the Thunder River Rapids ride claimed four lives, the theme park on Saturday had a low-key reopening.
All nine of the park’s major rollercoasters were shut, while The Buzzsaw, which overlooks the permanently closed site of the Thunder River Rapids ride, was also out of bounds.
Ticket sales from the reopening went towards a fundraiser for the families of victims Cindy Low, Kate Goodchild, her brother Luke Dorsett and his partner Ruzbeh Aragi.
The four died after their raft collided with another near a large conveyor belt at the end of the ride.
Signs at the entrance made it clear that thrill rides were closed, but local pass holders Kim Brezac and her son Dominic, 11, were keen to offer support.
“We’ve been respectful about why it’s been closed, we’re here to support the families as well as Dreamworld,” Ms Brezac said.
Dreamworld fans Craig and Deborah McGill both wore theme park t-shirts for their visit.
The local couple come several times a week and had been eagerly awaiting the park’s reopening.
“We’ve been waiting for the last six weeks to attend this grand event,” Mr McGill said.
Dreamworld attractions operating as usual included Tiger Island, Corroboree indigenous precinct, wildlife areas and kids rides.
WhiteWater World’s slides, pools and cabanas were fully operational.
Dreamworld had previously announced the Thunder River Rapids ride would be decommissioned.
Dreamworld CEO Craig Davidson, commenting as the first families returned to the Gold Coast attraction, said all rides had undergone safety checks.
“Every single attraction open today has been passed by an unprecedented multi-level safety review,” he told reporters.
Tourism minister Steven Ciobo welcomed Dreamworld’s reopening and encouraged Australians to continue to support the country’s theme parks.
“This is a positive step forward as the city, state and country continues to heal from the horrific incident that claimed four lives and shut the park in October,” he said in a statement.
“This respectful reopening will also end the uncertainty for those employees and their families for whom Dreamworld is their income.
“The Gold Coast has long been a destination for families and fun, and I hope it continues to be.”
Mr Ciobo joined a number of local politicians including Queensland minister for education and tourism Kate Jones at the park.
They enjoyed their first ride on Escape from Madagascar before exploring the rest of the park.
“I’m here in my shorts and t-shirt with my three sons,” Mr Ciobo said.
“Notwithstanding the tragedy it’s great to see the park back up and running.”
Mr Davidson paid tribute to the victims and thanked his staff for their hard work.
“Dreamworld is like a family, we have more than 1,000 team members and a fantastically supportive local community,” he added.
“It was fantastic to see the support there, it felt like it was a normal Saturday morning at Dreamworld.”
Queensland Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace said she was waiting for the release of the safety audit to assess whether changes needed to be made to safety laws.
“I think it was a catalyst to have a good look, assure the public, maintain the public confidence,” she said.
“Then if there’s anything we need to change we will.”
Safety audit identifies theme park issues
Workplace Health and Safety officers have completed safety audits at Dreamworld, Movieworld, Wet’N’Wild, Sea World and White Water World on the Gold Coast and at Australia Zoo and Aussie World on the Sunshine Coast.
So far, only three of the theme parks have revealed their results.
The Aussie World audit identified four issues with managing chemicals and electrical equipment but didn’t flag any problems with rides.
Safety checks at Dreamworld found faults with two rides and two slides.
The BuzzSaw rollercoaster was shut down for problems including safety harness issues.
Seven improvement notices were issued for the Green Room Waterslide, Flowrider and Escape from Madagascar, although management said none related to guest safety.
In the days after the Dreamworld tragedy, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the audit of theme parks would consider if existing penalties were sufficient to act as deterrents, and whether they should contain provisions relating to gross negligence causing death.
“It is simply not enough for us to be compliant with our current laws, we need to be sure our laws keep pace with international research and new technologies,” Ms Palaszczuk said.
An inquest will be held into the Dreamworld deaths but a date is yet to be set.
– With AAP