A ROPE, A BRUSH AND 100M OF AIR BENEATH

Written on the 25 September 2014 by Nick Nichols

A ROPE, A BRUSH AND 100M OF AIR BENEATH

OVER the past 25 years, Amanda Pennycook has spent a great deal of her working life dangling off a rope, and usually with a brush in her hand.

Now she spends more of that time overseeing a young team taking on the same challenging role as specialist abseiling painters working on high rise projects across south-east Queensland.

Pennycook, whose father Neville was plasterer who worked on the construction of the casino in 1985, is a working-at-heights project manager for Gold Coast painters Usher & Son – the company entrusted with the job of bringing a fresh new look to Jupiters Casino as part of the property’s $345 million refurbishment.

She is possibly the only woman in Australia with combined credentials as an abseiler, painter and plasterer – all of which are skills increasingly in demand for high rise projects.

Pennycook, who has worked on major developments such as Q1, Circle on Cavill and The Oracle, concedes it was tough when she started as a fresh-faced 19 year old in what was essentially a man’s occupation.

“It was a hell of a lot more difficult 25 years ago,” she tells Gold Coast Business News.

“But since then I have become so well known in Brisbane and the Gold Coast, everyone is very respectful.”

While Pennycook maintains a hands-on role with many projects, up to three days a month, she is happier now that she’s off the tools.

“It’s not that I don’t want to do it,” she says.

“It’s the physicality of it, especially carrying 8kg of gear with me. I’m not as physically strong as the young guys.

“This has been my career for 25 years and I hope it will be for another 20 years more.”

Pennycook is overseeing the safety of 20 painters and three labourers on the Jupiters project. Nine of them are abseilers, while six work on traditional swing stages as they tackle the task of putting a new face on one of the most recognisable buildings on the Gold Coast skyline.

The job has put the first exterior lick of paint on the property’s sandstone-like exterior since it was built 28 years ago.

When the job is completed in December, Jupiters will feature a new white exterior with brown highlights, giving what Pennycook says will be a “completely new look” to the property.

The work also includes repairing concrete damage and removing rust spots as Jupiters prepares to make way for the next stage of development with a new six-star hotel development proposed for the front of the property.

Pennycook says the Jupiters contract is part of a solid portfolio of work Usher & Sons has in the pipeline, including six high rises that she is overseeing in Brisbane.

Usher & Sons and another Gold Coast firm, Amalgamated Painting Service, are understood to be the only painting companies in Queensland with qualified abseiling painters.

Pennycook says some companies hire abseilers to do the work, but often they are not qualified tradesmen.

She says window cleaners have been abseiling for some time, but painters with abseiling skills have become more in demand over the past 10 years.

The job usually attracts fit young painters with a sense of adventure.

“Usually it’s the young boys who aren’t frightened of heights,” says Pennycook.

Usher & Son has 150 staff, including a team of abseiling painters.

The company’s management is chuffed at securing the high-profile Jupiters project.

“We have worked on some major projects in our time, but this has to be the best yet,” says senior executive Nigel McCutcheon.

“We are extremely proud to be part of Jupiters’ transformation and excited about its future and what it will do for the Gold Coast.

“Going to work every day with this magnificent view over the city and beaches, we think we have the best job in Australia.”

Echo Entertainment’s (ASX: EGP) Queensland managing director Geoff Hogg says the work is being managed to cause as little disruption to guests as possible.

“Echo Entertainment Group is committed to creating a world-class integrated resort, which will boost tourism and one which locals will be proud of,” he says.

The $345 million refurbishment of Jupiters will include a new six-star luxury hotel with private balcony infinity pools and upmarket restaurants and bars, while the existing restaurant facilities and pool area is also being refurbished.


Author: Nick Nichols

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