HUNTER Street retailers were considering a class action against the state government if the proposed Hunter Street light rail damaged their businesses, government representatives were told at a meeting in Newcastle on Monday.
More than 30 business owners or their representatives crowded into a room at Passmores’ Business and Management College in Hunter Street to put their concerns to Transport for NSW Newcastle co-ordinator general Anna Zycki and UrbanGrowth project director Michael Cassel.
The meeting was chaired by Newcastle state Labor MP Tim Crakanthorp and almost everyone present said they feared the loss of Hunter Street car-parking spaces to make way for the segregated light rail would kill their businesses.
Passmores’ college principal Duncan Passmore told Ms Zycki and Mr Cassel that he was a chartered accountant and a specialist in business recovery and while he had never previously said to a client “you’ve got no chance, close down”, that was his summation now if the light rail went ahead down Hunter Street.
He said talks had been held on a class action against the state government over losses to businesses caused by the light rail or the construction period.
“But I don’t think it should go in this direction,” Mr Passmore said. “With the government spending hundreds of millions of dollars on this project, it should set aside maybe hundreds of thousands . . . to compensate these people for the losses they are going to incur.”
Ms Zycki said there was a well-established process for compensation in this regard, and information was available on the Transport for NSW website.
Asked by Mr Crakanthorp why retailers in George Street Sydney – where light rail is being built – were not eligible for compensation, Ms Zycki said businesses had to incur losses to be compensated.
She said the government had done a lot of work on “street activation” during the Sydney construction and business was up, rather than down.
Ms Zycki said Newcastle City Council and others including the business community had asked for more time to respond to the Review of Environmental Factors on display for the light rail, and the time for comment had been extended by eight days to Friday, May 27.
She said 60 submissions had been lodged and about 120 comments left online.
East End trader Helen Humphries said she lost customers when the heavy rail shut and she feared the loss of parking with light rail would do more damage.
Asked if the light rail could be shifted entirely on to the heavy rail corridor, Ms Zycki said only the politicians could make that decision.