Rachel Smalley: Dreamworld horror show 'crisis management at its worst'

The owners of Dreamworld were planning to open their Gold Coast theme park in memorial to the four people who died there this week.

Small rides, the water park, and some animal attractions would be opened, and the entry fees would be donated to the Australian Red Cross.

But they've since announced that won't happen. The park will remain closed, thankfully.

I don't know what management were thinking when they made the decision to re-open the park, but when you're faced with a crisis of this magnitude, quick decisions and announcements are made, and you don't foresee the impact of those decisions.

Deborah Thomas, the CEO of Ardent (which owns Dreamworld), should never have put herself in a position at the annual general meeting to be openly interviewed by the media. It was just too soon.

Too soon after children had just seen their mothers killed. Too soon after a mother of three adult children who has lost two of those children.

And when Thomas addressed the media, she said she hadn't directly spoken to the families. You could almost hear the gasps of surprise. Why on earth would Dreamworld speak to the media about the tragedy, before speaking to the families who'd lost loved ones in such horrific circumstances? Thomas said she'd had some difficultly locating contact details. Just extraordinary. And then the conversation switched to her bonus.

It's a situation the company should never have put itself in, because it moves the focus away from the enormous human tragedy that occurred.

Suddenly, they're talking about financial results and the chairman is stepping in to say Thomas' bonus, worth around a million dollars, is based on Dreamworld's stellar financial performance last year. And yet, less than 48 hours ago, four people were killed.

So Dreamworld has now made the decision not to reopen. And Thomas will give her cash bonus to the Australian Red Cross. That's her cash bonus, though. In Kiwi dollars, it's about $178,000, which will be distributed to the families of the four people killed.

Again, it's too soon to be talking about money. And it still leaves Thomas open to further criticism and speculation about the $900,000 performance bonus she's likely to receive.

Queensland Emergency service personnel at the scene of the fatal accident. Photo / AAP
Queensland Emergency service personnel at the scene of the fatal accident. Photo / AAP

This is crisis management at its worst. The AGM should have been deferred, although I suspect they were legally compelled to hold it. But if that was the case, Deborah Thomas should have read from a prepared statement to make sure the focus remained on those who died, and on supporting the families they left behind.

Dreamworld has handled this appallingly. At every turn they have failed to convey just how serious the situation is.

They're talking about money. They're talking about financial results. They're talking about reopening the park, for goodness sake.

It's almost as if they're trying to press on with a 'business as usual' approach.

But in doing so, Dreamworld's management has forgotten to address the enormous tragedy of it all - and that is the many, many lives that have been changed immeasurably forever.

- Newstalk ZB

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf04 at 21 Jan 2017 16:26:09 Processing Time: 691ms