Furious CEO blocks Premier from theme parks

 

GIANT Gold Coast employer and theme park operator Village Roadshow has blocked the Palaszczuk Government from Sea World due to fury at "zero" communication about a border reopening to Sydney.

A furious Village CEO Clark Kirby - operator of Movie World, Sea World and Wet 'n' Wild - said last night he could not run his business of 4000-plus staff "like this" before letting rip, revealing he had blocked Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk from visiting Sea World on Thursday for a media opportunity.

Village CEO Clark Kirby lashed out at the State Government over the lack of communication over the border reopening. Picture: Glenn Hampson
Village CEO Clark Kirby lashed out at the State Government over the lack of communication over the border reopening. Picture: Glenn Hampson

 

Earlier in the day, he had made the difficult decision to pause a summer recruitment drive of 500-plus staff blaming border "uncertainty", saying he was "extremely disappointed" by "poor communication" from the Queensland Government.

But by last night, with no further clarity forthcoming from the Palaszczuk Government, he said: "Poor communication? There has been no communication. We have had nothing despite me reaching out numerous times. No one in the government can give us a single answer, even talk to us and that's the principle reason I cancelled their Sea World walk around today. Not a single person in that government can give me an indication of what is happening with the borders.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk campaigns in Coomera on the Gold Coast ahead of the state election on October 31. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Dan Peled
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk campaigns in Coomera on the Gold Coast ahead of the state election on October 31. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Dan Peled

"It would be reprehensible to me to walk around with a government that is going to cost thousands of jobs. My staff have been through hell and were starting to see a ray of light but the Government is pulling that out from under us."

He described as "disgusting" Deputy Premier Steven Miles' saying hospitality was faring well.

Earlier Mr Kirby said: "Our recruitment depends on the border opening, if it does not, then hundreds of summer jobs on the Gold Coast will be lost.

"As one of the largest tourism operators in Australia, we are seeking clarity on the Premier's border position so we can prepare for the summer period and start the Gold Coast's economic recovery."

The city airport and a hotel giant joined his pleas for Ms Palaszczuk to stick to a November 1 reopening to Sydney or put 3000 businesses and 41,000 jobs at stake.

Amid widespread speculation she is backing away from a forecast reopening to greater Sydney, Queensland Airports CEO Chris Mills urged the Queensland Government to "move quickly to reopen this critical market".

Queensland Airports CEO Chris Mills at Gold Coast Airport. Picture: Steve Holland
Queensland Airports CEO Chris Mills at Gold Coast Airport. Picture: Steve Holland

Gold Coast Airport's terminal supported more than 2000 jobs and last year the Sydney-Gold Coast route boasted 2.7 million passengers.

"These are real people's jobs - from the barista making your coffee, to the retail assistant and taxi driver. Many of these people could be back at work next month if the border opens," he said.

One of the inbound flights from Sydney was fully booked with other solid flight take up showing pent-up demand from NSW residents to holiday on the Gold Coast, he said, adding: "To turn them away at short notice would be a real blow to the Gold Coast's recovery.

"People are booking summer holidays now, so the opening of the border is not just critical for immediate travel but will significantly influence the number of visitors we have for months to come."

The boss of almost 30 Accor resorts on the Gold Coast says pushing back the NSW border reopening by more than a few days would be "catastrophic" for the city's tourism industry.

Senior vice president of operations Mark Hodge said Accor had been bumping up its workforce on the Coast.

Queensland Deputy Premier Steven Miles speaks during a press conference on the Gold Coast. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Dan Peled
Queensland Deputy Premier Steven Miles speaks during a press conference on the Gold Coast. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Dan Peled

"We've got 28 resorts on the Gold Coast and we've been in anticipation and preparation mode leading up to the border reopening for four to six weeks," he said.

"We've brought back people to get ready for that ... for what we expect to be quite a surge from the opening.

"We've got a call centre and we've also increased our manning in preparation for the phones to ring loudly because of the border opening. We're already seeing that. The opening for us is, like the rest of Queensland, super important.

"We've anticipated for it, we've planned for it, we've committed to it, so we're just hoping that the Premier is going to open the border as was originally planned."

Asked if the government had been communicative enough, Mr Hodge said: "I wouldn't say we've been kept out of the loop. We've just been planning ourselves and we took the view we would aim for November 1.

"We've been getting enough information through various levels of our organisation to understand what's going on. But if it gets delayed that's going to be catastrophic for the industry and difficult to manage moving forward."

Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate. Picture: Jerad Williams
Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate. Picture: Jerad Williams

Mayor Tom Tate said: "It is a decision for the Premier but the ongoing downward (COVID-19) trend in NSW and Victoria is heartening, and a sign that - dependent upon medical advice - the border should be able to reopen. I would like to see it open on the first or soon after."

Destination Gold Coast chair Paul Donovan said until the border to NSW and Sydney opened, the city would not get the traffic to support operators: "The tourism operators are crying out for the borders to be opened and depending on her to stick to the plan.

"I'd encourage the Premier to stick to the plan to open on November 1. Please Premier."

In a response to the Gold Coast pleas earlier in the day for a border reopening, Ms Palaszczuk gave none but said the state economy "remained open because of our strong health response".

"This has included strong action on borders which has meant we have avoided a Melbourne-style lockdown," she said, adding it would have put 330,000 Queenslanders at risk of losing jobs and cost the economy $3.1 billion a month. "We've seen 160,000 jobs return to Queensland since the height of restrictions in May and 32,000 jobs created just in the past month.

"I know this has been tough on businesses - that's why we have provided support through grants, loans, payroll tax relief and easing restrictions when it's safe."

Originally published as Furious Village CEO blocks Premier from theme parks



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