The Palmersaurus dinosaur park, located on the grounds of his similarly eponymous Palmer Coolum Resort, would not exist had it not been for a planner’s joke.
“We were planning to do something much bigger and there was a block of land we had, which we were going to do something really, really secret that the press didn’t know about,” he said.
“We were talking to the architect and said ‘what should we do?’ and he said ‘oh, just put ‘dinosaur park’ on it, they’ll think it’s a dinosaur park’.
“…Then, in Paris and London and Frankfurt and Beijing, they started writing these articles to say that we were going to clone dinosaurs here.”
Mr Palmer, the federal member for the seat Fairfax, in which his dinosaur park is located, said the subsequent media speculation resulted in scientists from across the world asking to be involved in the cloning process.
“We had 500 scientists applying for jobs, which got me thinking – there must be something in this dinosaur thing,” he said.
The park, which opened to the public on Saturday morning, includes 160 moving – and roaring – dinosaurs, just metres from guest accommodation.
They range from 2.5 to 22 metres in length and as high as 10 metres.
Just don’t ask Mr Palmer how much it cost.
“I never worry about money because if you live your life properly, you always have enough money to do what you want to do,” he said.
“Only my wife counts the money, I just count the experience, we’re all travellers through life.
“So I’ve got no idea (how much it cost) – I’d say we spent enough money, but there are still some sleepy dinosaurs there that should be in a much better condition next week.”
What is known is the admission cost for visitors – $100 for a family of four.
Throw in a visit to the Palmer Motorama – Mr Palmer’s personal collection of vintage, prestige and rare cars – and that raises to $175.
“It’s a lot cheaper than going to Disneyland,” Mr Palmer said.
“If you went to Disneyland in France or Japan, you wouldn’t find a dinosaur park bigger than this.
“…It’s not all about money, it’s about life and enjoying life and seeing the value.”
The mining magnate, whose assets include iron ore reserves and the Yabulu nickel refinery in Queensland, said the park would serve as a constant reminder the importance of conservation.
“What we don’t want to see is our world end up like the dinosaurs did,” Mr Palmer said.
“We’ve got to take better care of the environment and have a positive message for people.
“…We’ve got to make sure we all learn from the lesson of the dinosaurs, we all learn that Australia can be a better place if we look after the environment.”
Australia Zoo owner Terri Irwin, who lent her support to the dinosaur park along with her children Bindi and Robert, said there would be wider tourism benefits for the Sunshine Coast.
“It’s wonderful to see Clive taking such an interest in tourism on the Sunshine Coast because Clive doesn’t do anything by halves,” she said.
“When he says he’s going to do something, it’s inevitably going to be the biggest and the best.
“So we’re happy, as being partners in tourism, to be bringing people from around Australia and the world to see this incredible experience.”
By Cameron Atfield