BY RYAN QUINN
The NSW Government has ignored small businesses in the light rail compensation package, with millions pledged to aid government agencies.
City of Sydney Councillor and George Street business owner Angela Vithoulkas said she was one of 700 businesses that would be negatively burdened by the light rail construction.
She said she was surprised to hear that the Centennial Park and Moore Park Trust is due to receive $1 million to cover loss of revenue during the construction.
“The state government has said there would be absolutely no compensation for businesses that are impacted by the construction of light rail,” Clr Vithoulkas said.
“That has been told and maintained probably for the last 18 months.”
The park trust will also receive $7 million in compensation fees for the loss of land currently on a 99 year lease to the Australian Turf Club, according to a media release from NSW Shadow Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Ryan Park.
Mr Park said that the state government has refused to consider small businesses, which will be impacted by dust, noise and hoardings, and have already experienced low foot traffic after a week of no buses.
“Backing a government agency instead of small businesses during unprecedented construction chaos shows where the Baird government’s loyalties lie.”
However, Transport Minister Andrew Constance recently announced a strategy for keeping foot traffic in the CBD over the Christmas period, which included activities and decoration.
But Mr Park said this was not adequate support for businesses.
“These small business owners pay thousands in rent for a place on this prime shopping strip in Australia’s global city, yet all they get for their trouble is face painting, a fashion parade and a Christmas tree.”
The first phase of construction started on October 4, which saw George Street become bus-free.
Clr Vithoulkas said that her business had already been affected, with a noticeable drop in foot traffic due to the removal of bus stops.
“If you had asked me a week ago whether the bus stops were going to have this much of an impact, I would’ve said ‘I don’t think so’, but I was quite surprised at the level of impact it does have,” she said.
Clr Vithoulkas said that the recent start of spring and daylight savings usually would cause an increase in business activity, but she said she had not seen that yet.
In a statement to City Hub, Transport Minister Andrew Constance said that he had always made clear that he would watch the impact of construction on small businesses ‘very closely’.
“At this stage, we have invested in precinct activation and advertising to the wider community to support these businesses during construction. I will consider further actions to support business if required,” the statement read.
“In July 2014, Transport for NSW reached an agreement with the Centennial Park and Moore Park Trust for the rental of revenue-generating facilities during construction, and for a significant parcel of land now to be utilised for the Sydney Light Rail project.”
“Our focus is to get in and get the work done on George Street, and support businesses with promotional activities to keep people coming to the city to shop.”
But with the next stage of construction set to start on October 23, Clr Vithoulkas said there should have been more time to assess the impact of no buses.
“I think the timing sucks. Why wasn’t the bus situation looked at, considered and implemented last year?” she questioned.
Mr Park has been calling for the government to open up serious talks about business compensation, which Clr Vithoulkas said had not happened yet.