Black day as insurers duck cover over park

THOUSANDS of off-road fans heading for Black Duck Valley this Christmas will have to find somewhere else to camp.

The four-wheel-driving and motorbike-riding facility 30 minutes south of Gatton closed its gates permanently on Monday afternoon.

Devastated track builder Cameron Diete, whose family owns the 485 hectare property, said the park's insurance company had “pulled out on us”.

“We've tried a couple of insurance brokers and no one wants a bar of it,” Mr Diete said.

The 14 staff members were looking for new jobs yesterday.

“There's not much that's going to save us,” Mr Diete said.

“Without insurance, we can't operate.”

Black Duck Valley was the subject of a coronial inquiry this year after three people died in accidents at the park in three years.

Mr Diete said the four-wheel-drive tracks were constructed in the 1980s, followed by the motocross tracks in 2000.

The park attracts 200 to 400 motorbike riders a week.

For years, Ipswich region councils have talked about setting up more off-road parks.

A new taskforce headed by Lockyer Valley Mayor Steve Jones has recently been set up by the Council of Mayors.

“THE more places to ride, the more interest in the sport,” Mr Diete said.

“Without 100 per cent government backing, no one's got a chance (for insurance cover).”

Mr Diete says the nearest organised off-road facility to Black Duck Valley is probably six hours' drive away.

In May this year, State coroner Michael Barnes declared the four-wheel-drive and motocross park near Gatton “unreasonably dangerous” after three people were killed and 285 injured in three years.

Mr Barnes found activities at the park should be compared with other banned or heavily regulated high-risk sports such as cage-fighting, duelling, base-jumping and boxing.

“These deaths were preventable and the continued operation of Black Duck Valley in the manner in which it has been operating poses a danger to public health and safety, and creates a risk of further deaths occurring in similar circumstances,” Mr Barnes said.

Cr Jones said several sites suitable for holding motocross events had been proposed to his taskforce.

“Most of the proposals have come from private organisations,” Cr Jones said.

“If they can't get insurance, they'll be in the same boat.”

Cr Jones said it would be impossible for councils to cover the insurance on off-road parks.

“Our insurance wouldn't cover anything on private land,” he said.

Cr Jones said the Black Duck closure would put more pressure on areas already suffering from illegal riding.

Member for Lockyer Ian Rickuss said he was disappointed to see the closure of the biggest tourist attraction in the Lockyer Valley.

“We have a lot of complaints about motorbike noise so facilities like Black Duck Valley are warranted,” Mr Rickuss said.

“There is a community need for these sorts of facilities.

“The problem is that motorcycle sales are going up by 10 per cent a year.”

Mr Rickuss said other Gatton businesses would suffer from loss of customers with the closure.

- Yvonne Gardiner

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