Rebuilding Queensland

For more than half a century, Zanows’ Sand & Gravel had supplied Queensland’s construction industry with natural sand and gravel – until the worst flood crisis in the state’s history washed away an entire quarry overnight. While there is little doubt that the 2011 flood was Australia’s most devastating in terms of damage to infrastructure and overall cost, it’s what happened in the wake of it that made history – the community spirit of those who turned out to help, and people’s amazing ability to take a deep breath and start rebuilding.

Zanows’ Sand & Gravel is a good example of that ability to bounce back. The Wivenhoe dam is located just nine kilometres from the family’s quarry, which was flooded completely three years ago when water was released from the catchment to prevent dam failure. In some areas, the water stood 16m high.

Not giving up on the family business Viv Zanow built half a century ago, brothers Brad and Darren Zanow began rebuilding the company as soon as the water retracted. Both had joined the business in the late 1980s to support Viv and grew it into the local powerhouse it is today, supplying blue-chip clients like Boral, Holcim and Hansin. Thus, not rebuilding it was not even an option.

“Back in the days I used to work as a maintenance contractor in an independent quarry during the nights and on weekends to make sure I could help dad with deliveries during the week, just so he could make enough money to go down the road and buy a paper,” says now-Director, Brad, explaining how much work and passion went into building the Zanows brand.

Supported by younger brother and current CEO, Darren, keeping the business alive since turned into a family mission. Together, the duo redeveloped the entire complex so it can be moved off-site on a trailer – including the complete office building.

“We are both still very hands on in every part of the business, so there’s nothing we can’t do ourselves to keep the operation going,” says Darren, who also oversees four additional quarries in Queensland, including a 130-hectare depot at Fernvale.

One thing that has kept the company going during the tough rebuilding process was a sturdy fleet of ten concrete trucks and 14 tippers; including a recently added, PBS-approved five-axle dog trailer fully kitted with BPW running gear, Edbro hoists and a Ringfeder coupling. 

“The new five-axle combination travels all around southeast Queensland, often carting materials on a 120 km return trip. In a time where everything is on the line, we really need to rely on our gear,” says Brad.

“BPW makes a heavier duty axle than others and we spec everything a little bit heavier than we actually need to. I’m a great believer in spending a little bit more upfront on the heavier gear so you can get three times the life.”

He adds, “We’ve had no problems with the Edbro hoists, for example, even though we do anything between six and ten tips per day, five days a week.”

Workshop Superintendent and Equipment Manager, Ben Standen, made the same experience. “When we’ve pulled apart some of the after-market axles we’ve had in the past, we’ve had problems. We can throw it back together but it doesn’t last like the BPW gear. We don’t use ‘cheap Charlie shoes’ because the PBS and mass maintenance management scheme doesn’t allow us to use after-market gear on braking or steering components.

“The first thing a driver says to me when they change from towing a BPW disc-braked trailer to a different model is, ‘There’s something wrong with these brakes’. Of course there’s nothing wrong with the brakes, they’re just used to BPW performance,” he says.

According to Brad, reliability is everything in the transport game, but it will often go unnoticed until equipment is put to the test. The same is true for team spirit. In an amazing effort, the Zanows’ managed to rebuild Viv’s heritage after the 2011 flood.

Before the flood, the 50 staff worked out of a large office block, akin to a comfortable five-bedroom house. After nature struck, that building ended up out in Moreton Bay – some 100 km away. Today, everything on site is designed and built to withstand a similar event. The donga-style office block, for instance, can be pulled off site extremely quickly by undoing a few wires; and the extraction, concrete and crushing plants all have removable switch rooms that can be moved on the back of a truck.

When a business goes through a natural disaster like the 2011 Queensland flood, it has no choice but to pick itself up, work hard and build again. Brad and Darren have done just that, and maintained strong relationships in the industry along the way. “We did cop a caning in the floods, but we’ve still got our customers. In reality you can have the best staff, the best products, the best quarry, but if you don’t have the customers you’ve got nothing. That’s why we’re really thankful for the support we’ve recent over time. It’s been a real team effort.”

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