South Burnett tourism hotspot Coomba Falls. (Photo: Jessica McGrath)
South Burnett tourism hotspot Coomba Falls. (Photo: Jessica McGrath)

Council confirms Coomba Falls safety decision after deaths

NEARLY two years on from the tragic death of a Benarkin North man at the popular Coomba Falls waterhole, it’s been revealed the South Burnett Regional Council has made no changes to improve safety at the destination.

This is despite the then Mayor Keith Campbell pledging to investigate what could be done at the site.

Mr Campbell told the South Burnett Times in February 2019 the council would work in association with police to assess the ongoing safety of the popular tourist spot.

“Along with the police and our own officers, we will take an in-depth look at the reasons for the incident and what may need to be done to create a level of safety for the users of the Coomba Falls,” he said.

The pledge came after the tragic death of a 46-year-old man on February 10, 2019 – and less than three years after the death of 20-year-old Highfields man Blaze Alexander at the same waterhole.

Both men had been jumping from the rocks at the waterhole prior to their deaths.

At the time, Mr Campbell said he was open to the suggestion of more signage, but he wasn‘t convinced that was the issue.

“I am supportive of additional signage if there needs to be extra signage, but at the end of the day people will either observe or ignore the signs,” he said.

South Burnett Regional Council has now confirmed no changes have been made to the site.

General Manager Community Peter O’May said patrons choosing to swim within the waterhole “do so at their own risk”.

“Following the Coroner’s enquiry, it was evident that additional signage or other realistically relevant measures would not have prevented the recent tragedy/s or provided any greater level of risk reduction given the inherent and obvious risk associated with jumping off elevated rock ledges into the waterhole,” Mr O’May said.

“Where patrons choose to swim in natural areas such as Coomba Falls waterhole, Council is unable to eliminate all such risks with the general public accepting responsibility for their actions in swimming in this or similar unpatrolled natural waterholes.

“Visitors to the waterhole are required to take responsibility for their own safety in this regard.”

Despite the council putting responsibility for safety solely on patrons at the watering hole, it appears it will continue promoting it as a tourist attractions.

When ask to confirm whether it would continue to do so, the council did not respond directly to the question, but Mr O’May said the site was “still a highly popular tourist area with a large proportion of visitors choosing to picnic by the waterhole admiring the natural beauty of the site”.

At the time of the 2019 death, then Mayor Keith Campbell was also quick to shut down any suggestions the waterhole could be closed.

“I would be very loathed to shut off the Coomba Falls for use because council has invested quite a bit of money for people to come and have a swim,” Mr Campbell said.

“The reality is the Coomba Falls are not a dangerous place for a swim.”