Mayor and tourism chief go in to bat for cy­clone funds

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

WHEN An­drew Will­cox knew Cy­clone Deb­bie was headed for the Whit­sun­days, his main goal as mayor and chair of the Lo­cal Dis­as­ter Man­age­ment Group was to keep ev­ery­one safe.

“One of the beau­ti­ful things about the Whit­sun­days is we do have a laid­back life­style, but in this case it meant we had to say to peo­ple, ‘Guys, this is real, please heed our ad­vice (about evac­u­a­tions)’, ” he said.

When Deb­bie had done her dash, leav­ing the re­gion scarred, iso­lated and without wa­ter or power, Cr Will­cox was faced with an enor­mous task.

“Our re­gion starts at Wan­garatta Creek in the north to O’Con­nell in the south and out west to Mt Coolon, and there was not one square inch that wasn’t af­fected in some way,” he said.

“We had an enor­mous task ahead of us when the skies cleared. But how do you eat an ele­phant? You just do it one bite at a time. As you chomp through, you just keep get­ting to the next big is­sue, and that’s how we did it.”

Cr Will­cox praised the mil­i­tary, the SES and the wider com­mu­nity, who all played a part in the re­cov­ery.

“Af­ter the cy­clone had passed, I went ev­ery­where as soon as I could, re­as­sur­ing peo­ple we were bring­ing help. It was just amaz­ing how many peo­ple would come up and hug me and say ‘thank you for keep­ing me safe’,” he said.

“I’d go to one per­son’s place and they’d been wiped out but they’d say, ‘I’m all right.’

“At one lady’s house ev­ery­thing was trashed but she said, ‘That per­son over there is a lot worse off than me. They lost their roof, but I kept mine. I just lost ev­ery­thing in the house.’ “And I thought ‘wow’. “It was also see­ing peo­ple who had never more than waved to each other across the street shar­ing gen­er­a­tors and hav­ing bar­be­cues.

“If there was any­thing good about Cy­clone Deb­bie, then that was it.”

Af­ter the cy­clone had passed, I went ev­ery­where as soon as I could ... — An­drew Will­cox


SPEAK­ING UP: Whit­sun­day Mayor An­drew Will­cox and Tourism Whit­sun­days CEO Craig Turner have been fight­ing for the re­gion’s fair share of cy­clone re­cov­ery fund­ing.


SAFETY FIRST: Whit­sun­day Mayor An­drew Will­cox with Bri­gadier Christo­pher Field in the im­me­di­ate af­ter­math of Trop­i­cal Cy­clone Deb­bie.

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