Marty fears he'll have to close shop

IN THE weeks following Grantham's floods, Marty Warburton comforted himself with the knowledge that things could not get any worse.

IN THE weeks following Grantham's floods, Marty Warburton comforted himself with the knowledge that things could not get any worse.

Traumatised by what he had witnessed while clinging to the roof of his service station on January 10, 2011, he turned his mind from the grief that threatened to engulf him to the future.

"People lost their lives," he said. "People lost their homes and every single possession they owned. My service station was completely gutted and this town was decimated.

"I thought the only thing to do was to have some hope, to focus on rebuilding this community and realising the incredible potential that it has.

"Never for a minute did I think that, 12 months later, I'd be worse off than I was back then."

The Grantham community will hold its anniversary ceremonies on Tuesday and, while the day might bring closure for some, for others, such as Mr Warburton, it will be a bitter reminder of how tough the past year has been - and how far from moving on they are.

"I'm about to go broke," he said. "Unless I get a miracle or win the lotto, I'll be closing the doors on this shop for good.

"I reopened six months ago because I thought it was the right thing to do for me and the entire community. I've ruined my family."

In order to reopen his service station, in the heart of Grantham, Mr Warburton used every asset he could: shares, cash in his savings accounts and money stashed away for his retirement.

Determined to inject some normality and positivity into the weary town, he poured everything he owned into getting the service station up and running again and, for a while, the warm glow of hope and renewal made it all worthwhile.

But the reality of life in a town torn apart by natural disaster has killed his business. Only 35 of the original 160 families who lived in Grantham have returned so far. There are simply not enough customers to make his servo viable.

Unless he can come up with some cash by the end of the month, Mr Warburton will be forced to close the business, losing his livelihood, superannuation and every other penny of savings he ever had.

"After 20 years in this town, I'll be unemployed with no income, a leech on the government," he said.

"It's absolutely heartbreaking. Right now, I just feel like crawling into a hole and never coming out.

"I've failed my family. I've failed the community. How is it helping this town, 12 months after a natural disaster, for a local family-owned business to close down?"

As a business, Mr Warburton's service station was not eligible for any government assistance. He is still waiting for a verdict on his claims from his insurer.

The Lockyer Valley Regional Council has offered him one of the land swaps up on the hill where other residents are building new homes but, said Mr Warburton, "it's like me offering to give you 10? for your car".

"The land is probably worth about $80,000. Would you call that a fair swap for a $2 million business?"

Mr Warburton said the council was not interested in helping him because it already had plans to build a new service station up on the hill in the new housing estate.

"So this is it. It's hard to believe that, six months ago, when I reopened this place, I was feeling so happy, so positive for the future. Now, 12 months after the actual floods, I feel like I'm back at square one again.

"Actually, worse than square one. I've got less than I did 12 months ago and it just kills me, it really does."

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