Ardent Leisure fined $3.6m over Dreamworld tragedy

Ardent Leisure fined $3.6m over Dreamworld tragedy

The operator of Australia's largest theme park has been fined $3.6 million for safety regulation breaches that led to the deaths of four people in 2016.

Ardent Leisure (ASX: ALG) pleaded guilty to three charges under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Qld), stemming from the 2016 Thunder River Rapids Ride tragedy at Dreamworld on the Gold Coast.

The Southport Magistrates Court's ruling this morning was less than the maximum potential fine of $4.5 million, which might explain the 1 per cent rise in ALG shares to $0.50 each at the time of writing.

In a joint statement, Ardent Leisure chairman Dr Gary Weiss and chief executive officer John Osborne said the group accepted responsibility for this tragedy without qualification or reservation.

"Today we accept the Court's decision to impose a fine of $3.6 million which is the largest fine in Queensland history for a workplace tragedy," said Weiss and Osborne, who both assumed their roles after the tragedy.

"The Ardent Board and the new Dreamworld leadership team would like to express their deepest sympathies to the families of Roozbeh Araghi, Luke Dorsett, Kate Goodchild and Cindy Low for the enormous loss to each of them from the terrible tragedy which occurred at Dreamworld, nearly four years ago, and the ongoing suffering from that loss."

Weiss and Osborne pointed to considerable change at Dreamworld in recent years, as acknowledged by the Coroner in his report.

"This change, driven by the new and experienced leadership team, has resulted in a complete overhaul of Dreamworld's safety systems which has led to enhancements to existing systems and practices and the adoption of new ones," they said.

"The majority of families, first responders and others impacted by the tragedy have received compensation.

"The Ardent Board has, and continues to, press for the expeditious resolution of the remaining claims noting that, in the case of compensation for minors, the court's approval is required before compensation can be finalised."

Work is expected to recommence on a Memorial Garden for the victims at Dreamworld - a project that was put on hold due to the pandemic.

"We sincerely hope the finalisation of the prosecution will go some way towards furthering the healing process for families and all those impacted by the tragedy," the chairman and CEO said.

The company also faces a shareholder class action brought by Piper Alderman over the incident, and since COVID-19 ALG shares have lost almost two-thirds of their value; even after a slight recovery due to the reopening of Dreamworld and WhiteWater World.

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