A couple of months after its official axing, the Metro may just be a distant memory for most residents of Rozelle. But for some, the wounds run very deep indeed, and the fallout is far from superficial.
‘Balmain Bob’ Gault ran a well-regarded motorcycle repair shop next to the Tigers club. He said his business, plus three other houses, were given “as a bonus” to Benny Elias’ Rozelle Village to be used as part of an entrance to the redeveloped Tigers Club. Mr Gault’s business was compulsorily acquired by Metro for just $840,000, despite a valuation of the site’s worth at $2.2 million. As a result of having to clear out of the premises by April 1 – “Fools’ Day”, he noted dryly – he was forced to sell his stock in a fire sale. Mr Gault estimates the stock was sold for just five per cent of its value. He has not heard from the state government regarding any offer of compensation.
“What hurt me was that they left me lacking control of my own destiny,” he said. “Just a bit before all this, I’d had my kidney removed, so I wasn’t in the best of health – and they took that as a sign to take me out.”
For 66-year-old Mr Gault, the lack of loyalty from Tigers – a club he has been an active member of since the age of 18, but now describes as “a pack of bastards” – is very painful. “I’ve been in Balmain for 40 years and I’ve just lost all my passion,” he said. “I’m one of probably 30 businesses affected [to this degree] by Metro – a lot of people in Pyrmont got kicked out as well, and they’re finished.”
Less dramatic effects have also been felt by other businesses in the area. Store manager at Rozelle Retravision, David Hunt, told the Independent his store’s revenues had taken “a huge hiding” as a result of people not having confidence in the business. “We’re slowly recovering, but we lost a lot of money because of the uncertainty,” he said. “The owner of the shop also lost a couple of tenants upstairs, as [Sydney] Metro forced them out in anticipation of work commencing.”