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‘My business is still operating thanks to the army’

‘My business is still operating thanks to the army’

Forklift, Paradise Outdoor Advertising

Business owners have opened up about the impact of the unprecedented flooding facing Townsville and its surrounds, the paradox of business continuing while also standing still, and the extraordinary generosity being displayed in the face of adversity.

The volume of water experienced in the north Queensland city has smashed all records, at well over 1 metre in just a week, leading to widespread flooding.

Among the floodwaters, many local businesses are struggling to stay afloat after losing stock, equipment and trade, while others continue to operate amidst the chaos.

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“The work that I was doing yesterday is for one of the local cafes… they are still operating. That’s the picture that I don’t think the rest of Australia is seeing.”

Business, and life, goes on

Jenny Waterfall, who operates Jenny The Bookkeeper, told My Business about how the army evacuated her and her family, allowing her to continue operations and serve clients unaffected by the rising waters.

“We were flooded in [on] Friday morning at Hermit Park. And on Sunday afternoon, the army evacuated us. We walked through chest-high water with a bag each on our heads to get out to a bushmaster. The army carried our two dogs out,” Ms Waterfall said.

“My business is still operating thanks to the army, as they carried my laptop out above the water.”

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Ms Waterfall shared a photo of her front gate barely visible above the water line, and said that the family vehicles had succumbed to the flooding.

“The cars and caravan went under, but we are all safe, which is the main thing,” she said.

“We were locked in since Friday morning, we couldn’t get out. We’re in a high-set Queenslander, so we were safe, but then our power went out Sunday morning, you couldn’t flush the toilet because everything was flooded, basically no water, and that was it, we thought ‘we have to get out’.”

Ms Waterfall said that it was a timely decision to evacuate then, because despite having five steps left until the water level reached the floorboards, the forecast emerged of a further 1.5 metre rise.

“They basically gave us 10 minutes, just to get everything all together.”

She noted that a strange paradox has emerged, with around “a third” of the city underwater, but the remainder carrying with business as usual, making it important for her to continue servicing clients still in operation – regardless of the chaos facing her and her family.

“The work that I was doing yesterday is for one of the local cafes… they are still operating. That’s the picture that I don’t think the rest of Australia is seeing,” she said.

“As soon as you are out of those flooded areas… cars are driving around, normal things are happening.

“Anyone who can operate is.

“It’s really good because at least the staff are getting paid, which is going to keep the town ticking, which is what we need it to do.”

Asked about how she can turn her mind to work and business amid such a distressing situation, Ms Waterfall said there is simply no other option.

“Basically, you’ve just got to soldier on; there’s no choice in the matter,” she said.

“I don’t feel like doing work, but in a way, it’s good because it’s a distraction from what we’re going to have to deal with very soon, and we’ve got to keep on getting some money in… we’ve still got bills to pay.

“Most of my stuff is on my laptop. So for me, the kids were number one priority, and then it was the laptop, to get that out safe as well, otherwise I’d be in all kinds of strife.”

Ms Waterfall added: “Luckily, when the army came and evacuated us, they were just so good; I can’t praise them enough.”

According to Ms Waterfall, acts of generosity and kindness amidst the disaster, such as that by salon owner Tracie Davis Nieass, are quite commonplace as the community rallies together.

She thanked the friends who have taken in her family while they are displaced, as well as perfect strangers who have offered help.

“I also want to thank the mum and daughter who picked us up at the front of Ignatius Park evacuation centre with our two dogs and took us to a friend’s place in Kirwan where we are staying until we can go back home,” she said.

“There’s nothing I can do about my house, but I can at least try and help somebody out there.”

Helping out, despite home and business underwater

Meanwhile, a reader asked My Business to give a shout-out to Raymond McConville of Totally Rentals Townsville.

“Raymond McConville has been going above and beyond to help the Townsville community during this time any way he can with his 4x4 and team,” the reader said.

“I’ve been following their Facebook page for the past few days and am amazed with efforts put in by the team. Raymond has definitely got the community spirit. He’s helped with sand bag deliveries to those unable to collect, helping and rescuing community members who have been stranded (including a boat rescue evacuating four people and two children at 1am in the morning) [and] delivering a fridge and freezer to Bluewater Community Centre to help keep their food safe.”

In an emotional video posted on his business’ Facebook page on Sunday (3 February), Mr McConville said, “I’ve realised there’s nothing I can do about my house, but I can at least try and help somebody out there”.

Recognising the dire nature of the situation that has rendered sandbagging effectively futile, Mr McConville said he and his team would focus their efforts on rescuing people and goods in need of evacuation and transport.

“We won’t be doing any more sandbagging for now, but we’ll try and help people that are in real need,” he said.

Speaking with My Business on Tuesday (5 February), Mr McConville described the situation as heartbreaking and suggested that many businesses will go under as a result of the devastation, both from direct flood damage as well as lost earnings.

He said that he works from home, meaning that all of his equipment has been “completely damaged”, meaning it is unlikely that his business will be able to stay afloat.

Yet despite such a tragic situation, Mr McConville decided to put himself and his team to work helping those in need in any way they could.

“I did all night Friday night, most of the day Saturday and all night Saturday night,” he said, adding that he had helped 32 people move to evacuation centres as well as other tasks.

Mr McConville added that he has also experienced patchy mobile phone coverage since the flooding began, adding to the strain.

“And I’m with Telstra too, so it’s never had this problem before.”

According to Mr McConville, the generosity of so many local businesses has largely flown under the radar, with attention focused primarily on the water itself.

“A lot of them, like me, may go under financially because of this, and yet they’re still offering as much as they can,” he said.

“Even the guys at the pizza shop – they spent all night making pizzas, ran out of all their gear, and gave it all away for free; that would’ve cost them thousands of dollars and now they’ve got no stock themselves.

“The generosity is amazing.”

Another group of businesses have also extended support, Mr McConville said, noting that a number of digital service providers and subscription services have offered to waive monthly fees for a period to help with their cash flow.

“I have to have a lot of subscriptions to things, like CRM software and things like that, that cost I think over $1,500 a month. At least half of them have contacted me off their own bat and said they would not charge us for six months,” he said gratefully.

“That on its own has been a huge thing – that was a big shock to wake up to.”

He added that he is looking to get some pressure cleaners in to “get some work that way” once the clean-up begins.

“If you can’t give back to people in the community who have been great to our family business, then what can you do?”

Business offers ad skins for leaky roofs

Another local business going above and beyond during the flood crisis has been Paradise Outdoor Advertising.

The business said via Facebook that it has given away some 1,100 vinyl advertising skins (pictured) for locals to use as tarpaulins to cover roofing that may be leaking in the extreme wet, which were left on pallets on the roadside for people to collect as needed.

“If your house and family are okay and safe, pass it on and maybe you can help the little old lady next door or your friends keep dry with a tarp,” the post said.

It provided a later update stating: “We’ve had a big day, time to go back to our families. With over 1,100 tarps now distributed throughout the Townsville region. Will update you tomorrow with what else we can find in the Paradise HQ. Hope this small gesture from our family business helps make your weekend better! Take care – Team Paradise.”

CEO Mitch James told My Business the idea came about on Friday when the business was forced to close, as many staff were either cut off or directly impacted by flooding.

He asked one of the guys who was there to put three pallets of the skins out on the street for people to collect and use as tarps on their roof.

“In an hour, 200 tarps were gone.”

More went out on Saturday, and the business posted photos of them on its Facebook page to advertise the fact they were available.

“It was like a drive-through,” he said, noting that a line of cars up to 100 metres long formed to take advantage of his firm's generous offer.

The business also then began making house calls to people who couldn’t come themselves, making the deliveries by boat.

The reaction has been genuinely awe-inspiring, Mr James said with “people handing us a beer, chocolates, old ladies hugging us”.

All up, around 1,500 of the skins were given away.

Despite the estimated $50,000 cost to his business, Mr James said he had no qualms about doing his bit to help people keep their homes dry.

“Bloody oath,” he said.

“If you can’t give back to people in the community who have been great to our family business, then what can you do?”

Can you share more insights into the situation in and around Townsville? Are you in a position to help these and other business owners impacted by the devastating floods? Get in touch with us on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

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