A business impact assessment of ACT Government-led construction activities in Gungahlin released late last month shows small businesses have experienced significant downturn and are unhappy with government communication around the projects.
The assessment found the most common impact indicated by businesses related to footfall, parking, revenues, visibility, access and noise, with 69% reporting a significant deterioration in foot traffic and an average perceived revenue decrease of 31.75% from April to December 2017.
Many businesses also felt customers were avoiding the area due to vehicular and footpath access impacts from construction activity.
In some cases, businesses in the ‘red zone’ directly adjacent to Hibberson Street, said in hindsight they would have opted to close during the construction period if given the option.
Gungahlin businesses also reported a mixed response to the use and utility of various government communication techniques such as newsletters and publications.
When asked in a survey to rate overall support offered to business, 68% of local business respondents replied ´Not useful at all´.
A spokesperson for Transport Minister Meegan Fitzharris told Canberra Weekly that despite those findings, businesses are optimistic about the future.
“(Businesses are) looking forward to an increase in social and economic activity with a general expectation that revenues and foot traffic will improve when works are complete.
“The construction of public works, however, often comes with a level of disruption and inconvenience for the local community.”
They said the works present an opportunity for them to learn and improve.
“The government welcomes the opportunity to deepen understanding of how we might better work and communicate with local businesses so they are better positioned to prepare for change and able to navigate transition.”
Liberal MLA James Milligan said the mismanaged light rail construction along Hibberson Street has cost local businesses jobs, revenue and growth.
“Local businesses agree; they have taken hit from the government’s construction projects and they need a bit of extra help.
“They have clearly stated in this report that financial support and compensation for loss of revenue would help reduce the impact of construction works on their businesses.
“Businesses said they could have prepared better if the government had been open in its communication, such as by providing certainty around timing and delays in construction.”
Mr Milligan called for the government to extend the impact assessment zone beyond the Gungahlin Town Centre to all other business precincts along the light rail corridor, and provide small businesses immediate financial relief.