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Townsville signage firm hit by ‘unprecedented’ flooding

“We’ve been very lucky and it could have been much worse,” says Wal Robinson, co-owner of Queensland Signage Solutions (QSS), one of Townsville’s biggest signage firms that has been forced to stand down staff after record flooding that has claimed two lives and forced thousands of residents to evacuate their homes.

  by Graham Osborne

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  The flooding in Townsville, Queensland

 After 1.8 metres of rain in seven days pushed the Ross River Dam to 250 percent of its capacity, town officials were forced to open the floodgates on Sunday, unleashing a torrent of 2,000 cubic metres of water a second into the already flooded Ross River.

Thousands of people have been forced from their homes into evacuation centres; on Tuesday afternoon, two bodies were recovered in floodwaters in the Townsville suburb of Aitkenvale.

Robinson told Wide Format Online that his signage business was spared but is now running a skeleton crew after a rush of cancelled jobs.

“We’re in Currajong in the centre of Townsville and parts of this suburb got flooded but we didn’t because it’s a little bit higher here. There are areas of flooding close by, just a matter of streets away. It’s quite a flat town but there are high spots and low spots.

“The flooding was mostly in the areas closer to the Ross River that has the dam at the end of it. We’ve been lucky, this flooding is unprecedented, just way, way higher than any historical flood in the past. Luckily, we have good resources here in Townsville, we have a massive army base so we have heaps of solders, all the local fishing guys are out in boats pulling people off their roofs.

“I’ve got friends in a suburb called Annandale and they were doing quite well until the dam was fully opened and they got inundated. I know a single mother with three kids in the same suburb, she had to evacuate her house and make her way to her parents’ place. Another lady I know worked at the hospital as part of the disaster management task force, and she literally had to leave her house as it was flooding, then do something like 14 hours straight, co-ordinating and managing emergency services, and then go home to a flooded house. She was also moving out of her house at the time, so she had a lot of stuff in storage, and just knowing her luck, the place where she had her storage was Fairfield Waters, one of the worst affected areas, a suburb that was built on a flood plain. So everything she had in storage was also destroyed."

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  (l-r) Wal Robinson and Luke Jones at QSS, Currajong, Townsville, QLD

 Robinson and QSS co-owner Luke Jones have been forced to stand down staff members after losing a number of jobs, but the business has moved to a skeleton crew and remains open for business.

“Luke and I are the skeleton staff,” he says. “But we’ve been forced to give about six or seven staff members a week off, pending whatever happens. It’s usually a little quiet this time of the year anyway but we did have a little work in the pipeline. Now, most of those jobs have been cancelled due to the flooding.

“We had two vehicles that we were supposed to sign-write this week, a good job, three grand each, from a company called Carmichael Ford. But they got flooded so that job is off.

“We had a woman with a podiatry business and she was moving shop. The old shop she was still in got flooded, the new shop she just bought got flooded and her house was also flooded. So three things, all flooded, and she’s not in a good way. We were going to do the signage on the new shop, it was all quoted on and approved and we were about to go into production this week, but that job has also been cancelled.

“We had another job, the big oxygen tank at the hospital, and because it’s in a residential area they need to beautify it. So they had some nice Aboriginal artwork that we were going to put all over it, and that’s been cancelled because of the rain. That was an $8,000 job.”

But, in business terms, it could have been much worse, Robinson says.

“We have 1,000 square metres under roof here and we’ve got quite a lot of machinery; CNC Routers, three printers, UV, a big latex, laser cutters - easily a quarter of a million dollars’ worth of equipment. If all of that had gone under, it would have been quite a disaster. There’s no way we would have recovered the full value through insurance.

"In terms of the business, we own the shed, we’ve got solar, a lot of the overheads are quite low and we did that deliberately, just as a form of insurance against bad times. We can run a fairly lean operation. We have some reserves in savings and other stuff we can draw on to keep the business ticking over in the meantime.

"Obviously, worse-case scenario, if the business stays really flat then we’ll have to look at laying off some staff permanently, but we’ve never had to do that in the past. It’s not something we would like to do. We believe that staff are an asset so it’s not something you’d ever do lightly, if you’re sensible.

“But unless the disaster becomes a stimulus for building activity and that flows onto signage, then we could be in a spot of bother."

In the meantime, QSS has told customers in an email that it's open for business.

QSS is still open and fully operational and able to help with any signage during the clean-up and rebuilding process. QSS has had to move to skeleton crew, to remain functional while we recover.  Emails will be attended to as fast as possible. Please be patient with us in this time.  For any  enquiries, please contact Wal Robinson on 0437 467 228 or Luke Jones on 0422 235 209.


Queensland Signage Solutions is located at 42 Punari St, Currajong, Townsville, Qld, 4812.