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