Coral Cay Resort Motor Inn

Management rights owner Warner Banks was working as attorney general on the South Pacific island of Niue one moment and cleaning toilets and emptying bins for a living the next. Career changes are of course fairly common in this business but none are quite as dramatic as this one.

“It was actually quite nice to do something repetitive that you didn’t have to think about,” said the veteran legal professional who left his 26-year career to start afresh at a resort in Coolum. His wife, Chris left a similarly lengthy career in teaching and together the pair served their MR apprenticeship at 24-unit Pandanus on Coolum Beach.

“After such a long expatriate career I was choosing between going back to my native New Zealand and starting from the bottom again in private practice or taking another overseas legal appointment. We decided it was time for a change and my sister and brother-in-law (Rosanne and Bob Eastmond) were based in Noosa and he was selling management rights. Bob sold us Pandanus.”

Warner and Chris had never worked together before but they found their skills complemented each other and helped them to overcome the steep learning curve. “Dealing with people was no problem for us because you are similarly involved with people when teaching or practising law but the most difficult area for me was getting to grips with the practical issues and daily maintenance,” said Warner.

After a couple of years they sold Pandanus and formed a partnership with Bob and Rosanne to run the 174-room Isle of Palms resort on the Gold Coast. Then in 2006 they went solo again and bought a leasehold interest in the business of the 4½-star Coral Cay Resort Motor Inn in Mackay. “We did some research that suggested motel leases were offering a very good return on capital and the growth areas were between Gladstone and Townsville. Just by luck this lease came up and our security of tenure here is brilliant. We believed there was considerable expansion going on in Mackay and the coal boom really has driven huge growth that is still continuing even at the moment,” said Warner.

Motoring Ahead in Booming Mackay
Built in 2004, Mackay’s Coral Cay Resort Motor Inn is a luxury property with 63 well-appointed units including executive, spa and studio suites, as well as one-, two- and three-bedroom fully self-contained apartments. Geared towards the business traveller (but with plenty of facilities for the weekend leisure and family guests) the resort runs its own 60-seat restaurant and function rooms. Technology includes a drop down screen for power point displays, television, DVD and mobile whiteboard. When clients want more state-of-the-art boardroom options (such as digital whiteboards or video conferencing) Coral Cay hires them in. In a region like Mackay this is preferable to investing large sums of money in rapidly changing technology.


Owner operators ,Warner and Chris Banks live on-site and employ a team of staff to help them achieve their award-winning standards with over 90% average occupancy. “We have resident general managers Kate and Michael Horsman, executive housekeeper Malissa O’Riely and executive chef Owen Gray. They really are so important to the overall operation and they’ve been with us pretty much since the beginning,” said Warner. In fact, Kate went with them from a previous resort so the history and loyalty goes back even further.

“A good manager is one that delegates himself right out of a job, it’s all about putting your systems and your management structure in place” Warner said. “When we retire we’ll replace ourselves with another resident couple and they’ll come under Kate and Mike.”


For the moment, however, Warner and Chris are still very much at the helm and basking in the glory of a string of HMAA award successes including best 4½ star motel in Queensland for three years in a row. With construction of a further 18 units now under way it doesn’t look like things are going to slow down any time soon.

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