Yesterday I spoke in support of Andrew Wall's Motion concerning the Mitchell Traders.
I want to thank Mr Wall for bringing this important motion concerning the businesses in Mitchell, highlighting the impact of the light rail on them. But I want to add that it is not just affecting businesses in Mitchell, but many areas of Gungahlin.
I have recently been talking with members of the business community in the town centre. The place sure is a mess, and it is affecting business. The problem of course, is that when there is a mess, in the roads, in the access, people simply don’t come to shop. It is unattractive, dirty and noisy, and the lack of access is prohibitive.
A business owner commented that they have had to keep the doors closed at all times, in effect looking as though they were not open for business. Not because of the weather, though at this time of the year you could be excused for thinking that. But because of the dirt and dust.
Debris from the construction works continues to make its way into their shops and there appears to be no end in sight. This will no doubt get a lot worse before it gets better, as the dryer weather increases the dust being blown around.
Others commented about the noise – one business owner told me that there are days when the noise from the machinery does not stop and she had to go home with a headache.
There is no doubt that the noise problem has been a significant problem right along the route of the tram works, for businesses and residents.
A few shop owners in Gungahlin Place were told that the additional works would only be a matter of six weeks, but that was some months ago now. The fencing around the works has made it difficult to access the Gungahlin Village and the shops there. And it has put people off making that effort.
And this brings me to perhaps the most significant problem, aside from the dust, dirt, noise and lack of access, which has been the cost of the works to the businesses community.
Some businesses have been telling me that there has been a significant drop in trade, with some recording up to a 30% drop in turnover.
One shop commented that they have had to lay off full time staff – as a result of the drop off in trade, they can no longer afford to keep them.
So, I agree with Mr Wall and call on the government to actually communicate and consult with the community. It is time to let them know what is happening, and how long these disruptions will continue.
But the government should also be exploring with them what compensation can be offered to those businesses severely impacted by the construction of the light rail. Or all we will end up with is a series of empty store fronts, in what was once an expanding area of town.