Could Mackay get a dinosaur museum?
Could Mackay get a dinosaur museum? Peter Holt

'No-brainer': Dino-mite tourism idea for Mackay

A REGIONAL museum dedicated to the Mackay region's super-sized animal fossil finds and rich natural history has been called a 'no-brainer' idea by one expert in the field.

Queensland Museum paleontologist Dr Scott Hocknull said the Mackay region, along with most of Central Queensland, was a real 'hotspot' for paleontological discoveries.

"It would be a no-brainer for an area like Mackay to be able to facilitate a regional museum. We see regional museums in Central Queensland with dinosaurs and Western Queensland with dinosaurs," Mr Hocknull said.

"Paleo-based tourism has been a huge boost to regional towns, attracting visitors who may have never considered a visit otherwise. It's a conversation the community should be having."


Dr Scott Hocknull examines a fossil at South Walker Creek.
Dr Scott Hocknull examines a fossil at South Walker Creek. CONTRIBUTED

Over the past decade Dr Scott Hocknull has unearthed many amazing fossils on a site at Nebo's South Walker Creek mine.

"This site is very important to paleontology on a larger scale because we know very little about ancient life in Australia's tropics. Painting a picture of this area is extremely important to our natural history," Dr Hocknull said.

"Every year we go out and discover more fossils at South Walker Creek, it's an evolving story and we continue to find new material and new species, including the world's largest kangaroo standing at four metres tall."

The fossils were first discovered in 2009 by traditional owners, the Barada Barna people, who alerted BHP Billiton Mitsui Coal.

Queensland Museum chief Dr Jim Thompson said the fossils were some of the largest ever to have been discovered in all of Australia.

"Fossils of a giant marsupial, called Diprotodon, and lizard, called Megalania, were found and proved megafauna once walked the Mackay region," Dr Thompson said.

"You've got fascinating and amazing natural history right here in the Mackay region and it's important the local community understands what great treasures have been found," he said.


One of the fossils found at South Walker Creek, the jawbone of the giant marsupial diprotodon.
One of the fossils found at South Walker Creek, the jawbone of the giant marsupial diprotodon. CONTRIBUTED

Mackay Tourism general manager Tas Webber was not aware of the significance of the South Walker Creek site but was excited at the prospect of creating paleo-based tourism in the Mackay region.

"Mackay Tourism has never considered paleo-based tourism as an option, but we would love to know more about it. It would definitely create a point of difference within our tourism market," Mr Webber said.

"Even if it is not simply in the form of a museum, there is an opportunity for self-drive itineraries or guided tours at the site.

"The question is, who takes the lead on something like this? And I guess that would have to be the experts. It is definitely something we would support."



Dinosaur at Queens Park, Mackay.

Photo Peter Holt / Daily Mercury
Dinosaur in Queens Park? Peter Holt

Dr Hocknull said the Mackay region's amazing fossil find and the community's excitement about paleontology was why Queensland Museum was holding its Unearthed event in Mackay.

Unearthed is a family day that aims to make science accessible for all. The event is the result of the decades long partnership between BHP and the Queensland Museum that started when the megafauna fossils were first discovered.

"There will be fossil sorting and everyone will be able to get a good look at replica bones of the megafauna found out at South Walker Creek, but there will also be robotics on display and a live-action volcano and lots of other cool stuff," Dr Hocknull said.

Queensland Museum and BHP's Unearthed event will take place this Saturday, August 17 from 10am at the Mackay Entertainment Centre. All ages are welcome.