NEWCASTLE’S light rail system will be a “track to nowhere” when it opens because scores of businesses will shut down due to loss of trade during its construction, a city trader claims.
Shane McCulloch, the owner of Newcastle Coins at 281 Hunter Street, says his turnover has slumped by at least 30 per cent since work began on the light rail because of the disruption caused to street traffic flow and lack of parking.
Mr McCulloch, who has run his store for 13 years, says if things don’t improve he will close at the end of the current financial year.
“Customers have told me first hand they will not be coming in till after light rail is completed. This will more than likely be to late for me as I will be closed,” he said.
Mr McCulloch joined Colin Scott, of Hunter Street’s Frontline Hobbies, in urging the government to axe its policy to not compensate shops affected by the works.
Parliamentary secretary for the Hunter Scot MacDonald has vowed to take business concerns to the government but has been clear he does not believe any direct compensation will be paid.
Mr McCulloch buys and sells coins, bank notes and stamps from the public and resells them to customers and online, alongside selling current products from the Royal Australian Mint, Perth Mint and others.
He said his December and January sales had fallen almost 40 per cent because people were not coming in store to sell or buy collections because they thought there was no parking. This was despite his efforts to promote his business on social media. He said he had been “banging my head against a brick wall” asking Revitalising Newcastle to provide basic signage to direct the “confused” public to parking and promote the fact businesses are open.
“Since the start of construction really the only signs that have appeared direct people away from Hunter Street,” he said. “One of the staff promised me in mid October that they’d have [better] signs up by the end of the month. I’m still waiting.”
A Revitalising Newcastle spokesperson said that it had made several changes to signage over the last few months after talks with Newcastle Coins; that more signage would appear in coming days; and that 13 extra temporary car spaces were added in recent months.
Meanwhile, veteran city surf shop Pacific Dreams, founded in 1981 by respected board shaper Roy Lee and run by his son Shane, has closed its Hunter Street shop. Shane Lee was unavailable for comment however it’s believed the construction work had impacted the business.
In a bid to get more people to town, Hunter Street cafe Three Bears Kitchen is giving a discount of up to $4 to patrons who visit on weekends to offset parking fees.