Hamilton Is­land wel­com­ing

Staff, res­i­dents, air­lines, po­lice, gov­ern­ments all play part in venue re­birth

Whitsunday Times - - NEWS - Sharon Small­wood sharon.small­wood@whit­sun­day­times. com.au

JUST as green shoots ap­pear on the branches of trees stripped bare by Cy­clone Deb­bie, Hamilton Is­land is re­gen­er­at­ing life.

On Satur­day the is­land wel­comed its first guests since hav­ing to evac­u­ate af­ter the March 28 dis­as­ter.

And on Tues­day chief ex­ec­u­tive Glenn Bourke threw open the doors for na­tional me­dia and Fed­eral Tourism Min­is­ter Steven Ciobo, so the whole of Aus­tralia would see the progress made in just two short weeks.

Mr Bourke said the is­land’s 1200 staff had done a phe­nom­e­nal job clean­ing up.

“And I’m re­ally proud of the com­mit­ment that they’ve shown and the speed that we’ve been able to get our­selves back on our feet and open our doors to the pub­lic,” he said.

“This was a very in­tense cy­clone for us. We have had cy­clones be­fore, and we have learnt from those ex­pe­ri­ences... and whilst we knew that we evac­u­ated most of the is­land, im­me­di­ately post the cy­clone we wanted to make sure the staff had fruit­ful em­ploy­ment and that we could sus­tain the is­land un­til such time as the guests came back.”

Mr Bourke said many ar­eas staff had cleared were now “bet­ter than they ever were be­fore”.

“And the whole re­sort zone is ready, all our ac­tiv­i­ties are ready to go, our restau­rants are open, we’re back in busi­ness.

“Part of the Oat­ley fam­ily ba­sis for mov­ing for­ward is that we have in­cre­men­tal im­prove­ment, year on year.

“This gives us an op­por­tu­nity to clean out ar­eas, to re­con­struct, to re­fit shop fronts and restau­rants and staff ac­com­mo­da­tion and to build it bet­ter and more im­per­vi­ous to the ef­fects of weather in the longer term – so it’s a big op­por­tu­nity for us as well – it’s re­ally a pos­i­tive on that side of the spec­trum.”

Mr Bourke ex­pressed sym­pa­thy for some of Hamilton Is­land’s im­me­di­ate neigh­bours, such as Day­dream and Hay­man is­lands, which will now close ahead of ma­jor re­fur­bish­ment works.

He said the dif­fer­ence for Hamilton Is­land was “we have enor­mous re­source here: 1200 staff, a lot of ma­chin­ery (and) heavy equip­ment and we fig­ured it was pos­si­ble for us to re­build very, very quickly”.

“So we set that tar­get of 10 days af­ter the cy­clone and we’ve achieved it and we have our first guests com­ing

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