by Anne Miller
Prior to Easter, we were discussing in our office the upcoming big weekend at Manar Park, near Boondooma.
There didn’t seem to be much point in doing any sort of promotional story as the camping area was already booked out.
So we didn’t. But we joked – in that gallows humour so common in newsrooms – about who would win the Manar Park special door prize this weekend, ie. a free helicopter trip to the coast.
But it was no joke.
By Sunday, the Sunshine Coast-based RACQ LifeFlight helicopter had been called out to the off-road recreational park three times.
And on Sunday evening, the rescue helicopter was back for a fourth visit … this time to Manar Road – which leads to Manar Park and usually has only a tiny amount of traffic – to deal with a single-vehicle crash.
A young woman suffered what is believed to be severe injuries in this incident.
The road to Manar Park is not a superhighway and was never designed to carry the kind of traffic that big weekends at this private business attract.
Even so, we have been told Council workers were out there ahead of Easter to make sure the road was in good condition.
If this is true, what other property – or private business – in the South Burnett gets this sort of special treatment?
But wait … what about the tourist dollars?
Well, let’s count them.
Visitors to Manar Park camp there so they bring most, if not all, their supplies with them. Do they even pause in any of the South Burnett towns on their way?
Do they visit any cellar doors? Stay overnight in any motels? Buy anything, anywhere?
Some of them would stop, perhaps, at The Peanut Van or Nanango’s Peanut Wagon. And a few may even fill up at a service station or two along the way.
But I would not classify this as generating significant tourism dollars.
Instead, in return for the privilege of watching 4WDs carrying sets of motorbikes heading non-stop through their towns, South Burnett residents get to enjoy having their emergency services – police, fire and ambulance – called to multiple incidents in the boondocks, potentially pulling them away from other places where they are also needed.
All at no cost to the operators of Manar Park or the people injured having a “fun” weekend away.
As well, all the not-for-profit organisations and service clubs in the area who have worked so hard over the years to raise funds to support the helicopter rescue service get to enjoy seeing their hard work squandered on multiple chopper visits to a private business.
Yes, Manar Park does do fundraising of its own to support LifeFlight.
But I bet the amount of money which is raised at its annual LifeFlight weekend doesn’t go anywhere near covering the amount spent on visits to its facility over the years.
(In 2015, according to Manar Park’s own website, its Careflight Challenge weekend raised $2000; according to the RACQ LifeFlight website, each of it rescue flights last year cost an average $12,500).
Now I don’t begrudge people having fun in 4WDs or on MX bikes. In fact, I’m probably more than a little envious.
But the truth is in the middle of nowhere, at the back of Boondooma Dam, is NOT the place where this should be allowed to happen.
The pressure that accidents and incidents at Manar Park puts on emergency services workers is too much to be sustained in this era of economic cutbacks.
Manar Park should revert to a full-time cattle property. Now.
Or perhaps the operators would prefer to pay the full costs incurred by local emergency services and fly-in medicos to support its high-risk, for-profit, adventure park business?