With no preparations for a flood, the Northern Rivers company was severely hit. But it was a moment that brought the best out of the close-knit community and the couple’s loyal business relationships.
By the time the O’Connors made it to the site, friends had already begun the clean-up. Many of the 50 staff and their families volunteered around the clock.
“People did it out of the goodness of their heart,” says Sue. “It’s a very community-minded area and because of that, we’re still surviving. Everyone pitched in and helped and a lot of our customers were very good to us.”
Much of the business is built around moving beer – a happy consequence of being close to holiday hotspots, Byron Bay and the Gold Coast. After that memorable night last March, iconic regional brewery Stone & Wood sent a team of staff to help clean up and replace 600-plus pallets of freight, mainly beer, lost to the flood.
In 1948, when Bill O’Connor launched his small business with a single truck serving the locale, he could not have known that 70 years later, the business would be many times the size and remain family run. Three of Bill’s four sons are directors of the company that now deals with jobs across NSW and Queensland. Paul’s son and sister, as well as Sue, all work for the business. Three b-doubles lead a fleet of approximately 30 vehicles which together shift 600 tonnes of freight every day.
And while there are always logistical challenges in the transport business – like increasingly pressured motorways and the need to grow whilst remaining true to company values – it’s mother nature that keeps the O’Connors on their toes these days.
“Rain makes us more nervous now,” laughs Sue. “No, our staff have always been good and they just proved it when the Cyclone Debbie hit.”
“The people, the land… there’s nowhere like it.”