THE RECENT UNPRECEDENTED FLOODING across Queensland and New South Wales devastated areas of both states.
The massive downpours created trauma and turmoil, but at least those properties with a resident manager were in capable hands.
Sadly, resident managers have had to become really good at disaster management in recent years.
No one knows a building or its occupants better than a resident manager, and they are always on the spot to deal with a crisis immediately.
In the last few years, our ARAMA members have had to manage just about every kind of natural and economic disaster. Their effectiveness is one of the reasons that Management and Letting Rights businesses continue to rise in value no matter how much trouble envelops the tourism and accommodation industries.
In recent years we’ve had cyclones in North Queensland, we’ve had drought, and then bushfires on the south coast of New South Wales, and we’ve had devastating floods. We’ve also had the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Because of the floods, the luxurious Riverside Hotel in South Brisbane was closed for 10 days and had no power. Staff were fishing cars out of the car park after the Brisbane River did its dirty work.
But we recently turned up for an ARAMA function there and it was as though nothing had happened.
Less than a month after it closed due to floods, Riverside was back to full occupancy.
Our resident managers are at the pointy end of natural disasters. Many of them at high rise complexes during the floods had to drag cars out of flooded car parks, knock on doors – particularly for some of the elderly residents – and help organise groceries and food drops.
The work our managers do during disasters highlights their crucial role in a building.
They are often unsung heroes who can respond quickly and rally volunteers together.
Guy Elliott, ARAMA’s national president, manages a large property of about 100 two-storey townhouses in a gated community on the canals at Mermaid Waters.
Most of the living quarters were upstairs but at least one of the residents was sleeping downstairs and woke up with water flapping around his bed. It was like somebody put a hose in a bathtub and the water just kept rising.
Before long Guy was organising a massive clean-up, and being on the spot he could help people as they needed it, check on any emergency situations, and then organise the recovery straight away.
We have an internal website called “marketplace” for anyone who needs help, and we sent out messages to all our members.
I got the idea for this call-out to ARAMA members during the 2011 floods. I was helping with the recovery at a townhouse complex at Ipswich that was completely inundated. The living areas were downstairs and there were kitchens, dining areas all covered in mud.
At the same time there was another scheme at Jindalee – 60 odd townhouses – and we did a call out to tell our members ‘look if you can, grab your ute, grab your wheelbarrow, grab your hoes and shovels and brooms and get out there.’
I was out at Ipswich all day shovelling mud but late in the afternoon I called into the scheme at Jindalee where about a dozen ARAMA members had been working all day.
This older guy starts yelling at me while shuffling up the road.
He said ‘Are you from ARAMA – someone told me you organised the workers here.’ He gave me a huge cuddle. He was the chairman of the body corporate and he couldn’t thank us enough for all turning up at the point when he didn’t know how this huge mess was going to be cleaned up.
I was expecting a lot of calls for help with the recent floods but this time our resident managers such as Guy Elliott just organised people themselves and got it all sorted.
Resident managers are cool heads in a crisis.
During the most destructive phase of Cyclone Debbie in 2017, Jo Matthews at the Toscana Village Resort at Airlie Beach, showed once again the vital role of a resident manager.
Most people had evacuated and gone home before the cyclone arrived but there were still people ready to ride it out – residents who lived there looking over the Whitsundays, and a couple of tourists who couldn’t get a flight.
Jo knew exactly where they all were. She put the garden furniture in the swimming pool so it didn’t blow away, and baked muffins, delivering them to people in their apartments on the afternoon the cyclone was coming.
She warned everyone what would happen when the cyclone hit, made sure they got everything in off the balconies and reassured the residents and guests that, while they would lose power, they just had to hang in there and sit tight no matter how hard the wind roared. She told them it would be traumatic for a few hours but the storm would eventually pass. Jo gave them torches and matches and supplies to keep them comfortable.
Cyclone Debbie roared into Airlie Beach, the power went out, and the noise of the wind was deafening. It stopped about 9 o’clock. Most people thought it was over, but Jo warned them that it was only the eye of the storm. The tale came back and was even more intense, slamming into the Toscana like a freight train.
Jo lost a lot of foliage and there was a lot of broken glass but largely thanks to her efforts as the resident manager, there were no injuries to people staying there.
Then, during the bushfires around the NSW south coast areas such as Merimbula and Ulladulla, roads were cut, services were cut, and power was out.
Resident managers were able to accommodate people when needed including firefighters and emergency rescue personnel because the managers were on-site and knew immediately what was available and how to best help residents and the wider communities.
Then, almost immediately after the bushfires, COVID swept through the country, and two years later continues to cause harm.
And once again, resident managers are essential in protecting each building and their guests by implementing COVID Safe plans.
In some markets such as the Sunshine Coast, COVID has been so well managed that it’s been record business since about July 2020 – and that’s extraordinary since it’s come during the worst set of conditions possible for the Australian tourism and accommodation industry.
For a few short months early in 2020 the government actually made it illegal to have a holiday in Queensland.
But two years later, sales brokers are enjoying record demand in an industry that has withstood all these natural and economic disasters.
Much of the credit for that fightback must go to ARAMA and our resident managers.