Close to three decades in the industry could not prepare Townsville small business owners Rod and Cheryl Pether for the ‘heartbreak’ of seeing their livelihood ruined.
Up to a metre of flood water, mud and debris crept into their Hermit Park business, Rod Pether Motors, overnight in February, swamping cars, ruining office equipment and almost taking their business.
“The initial thought was we were done for, we were finished. It was heartbreaking,” Mr Pether said.
The couple were faced with a long road to recovery but made the early decision the flooding was not going to be the end of their business.
With the help of a Queensland Rural and Industry Development Authority (QRIDA) administered Special Disaster Assistance Recovery Grant, they were able to re-open two weeks after the flood water resided.
“We picked ourselves up and didn’t give up. We worked too hard for this business to give up,” Mr Pether said.
“We still had to pay wages and bills. The bills didn’t stop but the income did.
“After the $10,000 grant went into the bank, I started sleeping a night.
Mr Pether said it took two weeks to re-open for business.
“We didn’t give up, we knuckled down. We had no power for over a week so we borrowed a generator and started cleaning. We did dump runs, cleaned the mud and got on with it,” he said.
“We operated on a shoe-string. Prior to the floods we had up to 30 cars on display and afterwards we had five. It puts your cash flow out a lot so there was a lot of pressure.
“Now we are back on deck, I have 12 cars we can deliver right now and I think we’ll be ok. We just have to ride the wave and keep going, doing what we do best.
“We just have to dust yourself off and keep going. Townsville has a lot of good people and god business. Townsville will survive.”
Assistance of up to $50,000 is available for small businesses affected by north and north west Queensland’s recent floods under the Special Assistance Recovery Grants.
Minister for Employment and Small Business Shannon Fentiman said additional staff have been brought in to assess and process the recovery grants.
“We want to ensure local businesses have the support and assistance they need to get back on their feet as soon as possible,” Ms Fentiman said.
“It’s great to see that the Queensland Rural and Industry Development Authority (QRIDA) have increased their staff by 30% to make sure that business owners can get access to much needed assistance faster.”
Member for Townsville Scott Stewart said business recovery is vital to the recovery of the region.
“We know small businesses are the lifeblood of our local community and the Townsville Small Business Recovery Centre has played an important role since it opened in February in getting businesses back up and running,” Mr Stewart said.
“With the additional staff to speed up the recovery process, the average processing time for grant applications is currently 9 business days.”
QRIDA manager Craig Turner said as of midday on March 27, 127 small business grants were approved to the value of $ $983,959 with almost all from the Townsville region.
“QRIDA has appointed 30 additional processing and assessment staff in the weeks since the disaster event to help address demand from loan and grant applications as quickly as possible,” Mr Turner said.
“QRIDA continues to monitor the situation closely to meet this expected ongoing demand and ensure grant funding is landing in eligible small business owners’ bank accounts as soon as possible.
“We acknowledge this is a stressful time for communities in the North and Far North as they come to terms with the impact to their small businesses, not-for-profit organisations and primary production businesses which is why we are doing our best to help with the recovery process.
Mr Pether said he was able to apply for an initial $10,000 grant even before he knew the outcome of his insurance claim.
He said he would consider an additional $40,000 grant after an insurance outcome was finalised.
“I would have no hesitation in recommending other flood-affected small businesses to at least go through the application process. There is light at the end of the tunnel and help there is you need it.”
QRIDA staff have been on the ground across the flood affected areas over recent weeks, including the Small Business Recovery Hub in Townsville (at 143 Walker Street), to meet with applicants face-to-face and answer any questions or concerns.
Experienced QRIDA staff are also available via Freecall 1800 623 946 to help with inquiries and the application process.
The grants are made available through jointly-funded Commonwealth/State-Disaster Relief Funding Arrangements.
Media Contact: Inga Williams 0439 949 719