Businesses facing eviction due to North East Link construction are suffering in limbo and need a plan from government agencies according to Eastern Metropolitan MP Rod Barton.
Mr Barton toured businesses in the Bulleen Industrial Zone last week with Manningham Mayor Paula Piccinini to hear concerns over the Environmental Effects Statement process and the current design, which proposes wiping out much of the business zone.
“These small business owners are living in limbo and it’s creating huge stress on them, their businesses, staff and their families,” said Mr Barton
“They need some answers and some understanding of the process that’s coming, and they haven’t been getting that information from the North East Link Authority.”
Mr Barton said very few in the area were against the North East Link development, but frustration was mounting over the lack of information on which businesses were safe, the options for relocation or if design tweaks to save some businesses were even an option.
“There’s a half million dollar hub sitting right in the middle of the business park, fully staffed two days a week, yet they have no information or answers for these businesses on what is actually going to happen.”
Bulleen Art And Garden, which has been in operation for over 50 years, has become a landmark and local institution and is a huge promoter of local art, craft and sustainable gardening in the area.
“The history and community of this garden centre can’t be simply moved to a new location. The owners, Bruce and Meredith Plain, are stuck in limbo and are unable to grow or invest in their business until they’re sure they’ll be here,” he said.
Relatively new businesses in the area, such as Wonder Pies, had invested heavily in infrastructure and built a solid team of bakers over the past 18 months, but plans to expand the business were in limbo because of the uncertainty about the location.
“If they move now they must cover the cost of relocation and refitting a new factory themselves and may have no recourse for compensation, yet staying and waiting means all plans to expand the business or build new contracts are on hold.”
Many of businesses in the zone have formed an ecosystem of trade, using each others services within the community.
Some businesses, such as Wallard Automotive were willing to relocate and had been looking, but could not find similar sized premises, similar rents, or areas locally that weren’t already heavily serviced with similar businesses.
“These guys just want a plan. They need someone to sit down and explain what their options will be when, and if, the compulsory acquisition notice arrives, the assistance and compensation they will be entitled to as owners and tenants, what options are available in terms of relocation, and how any compensation will be calculated.”
Mr Barton met with Higgins Panels owner Steve Higgins and his father, John, who are in disbelief that this is happening, that the government can just walk in and take their business away. Their business has operated in the area since 1977 and has expanded into three factory sites in the area.
Mr Barton drew comparisons to the reforms of the taxi industry and said the lack of information on how they would be valued meant businesses were afraid they would lose.
“I am sadly familiar with the uncertainty and frustrations these businesses face and I will be urging the Government to offer fair relocation packages and compensation to these businesses.”