Page 3924 - Week 11 - Wednesday, 20 September 2017
The motion I bring to the Assembly today calls on the ACT Labor government to take actions that, in my view and the view of many local business owners, are the actions that should already be core business for local government. This is also not a new subject matter. I have spoken many times in this place about the important contribution local businesses make to the ACT economy. We, as the lawmakers of the ACT, need to ensure that the policy settings and decisions made by government are conducive for business to firstly start, then grow and prosper.
There are about 300 businesses in Mitchell, employing over 4,000 people. Not unlike other business precincts, such as Hume, Phillip or Fyshwick, Mitchell is no longer just an industrial estate; it has come on in leaps and bounds, offering a diverse range of businesses, including home improvements, retail services and the like. I acknowledge the recent formation of the Mitchell Traders Association, started by Anthony Manning from the Phoenix Gym. The association now has memberships running in excess of 250 businesses and is spearheading a campaign to include a tram stop in Mitchell and to improve the amenity of the area.
There are food businesses, gyms, child care, leisure facilities and many other varied businesses in operation. It is fair to say that all these businesses have been impacted in some way, shape or form by the ongoing construction work along the light rail corridor. Mr Manning has noted that he personally has seen a loss of income in his gym of about 30 per cent, with fewer sales, fewer inquiries and fewer clients turning up to class since the construction of light rail began. He is not alone.
Since October last year, when construction on the light rail project commenced, businesses in Mitchell particularly have endured death by a thousand cuts. Some business owners have called the impact worse than the global financial crisis. The slowdown in trade as a result of construction and traffic delays is bad enough for businesses to endure. However, what has really incensed local businesses and added insult to injury is the fact that light rail will not even have a dedicated stop in Mitchell once construction is completed. In reality, these businesses will effectively have trade completely bypassing them once construction is over and light rail is operational.
The minister has confirmed that this is the case. The minister’s excuse for this is that no-one wanted a stop there. The fact is that, whatever consultation was undertaken, it most certainly did not include the business owners and operators at Mitchell. Otherwise they would not be forming such an organisation today, calling on a stop to be placed there. Not once were they asked what they wanted or needed. Not once were they told what to expect in terms of disruption to trade.
The minister has indicated that there may be some consideration of including a light rail stop in future stages of the light rail project. But the facts remain that it is one of the biggest infrastructure projects ever undertaken in the ACT and we have to retrofit stops after construction is completed. This has all the hallmarks of the GDE—a construction project that was finished, ribbons were cut, only to have construction work recommence to make the asset fit for purpose, at great cost to taxpayers. This does not make economic sense and certainly does not display any common sense on the part of this government.