Angry retailers have ambushed the NSW Premier and the state’s Transport Minister at the reopening of a section of Sydney’s CBD where new light rail lines have been built.
The State Government is calling it Sydney’s hottest selfie spot. It’s a section of George Street between Park and King Streets now open, with part of it adorned with Christmas tree arches and flashing lights.
But some retailers are not feeling the cheer after enduring years of construction.
Long-time Strand Arcade jewellers Mark and Jennifer Duff made their feelings known to Transport Minister Andrew Constance at a press conference on Sunday.
“We are talking about collateral damage that you don’t care about, because that’s what we are,” Ms Duff said.
“Well collateral damage … but what I’m saying is we have provided rental assistance,” Mr Constance replied.
The Duffs said the rental assistance is not enough to compensate for two years of lost trade, but Mr Constance was not exactly interested in hearing their comments.
“I’m here to answer questions from journalists,” the Minister said.
“Run your own press conference mate.
“Guess what? Your business is about to pick up massively because guess what, here it is, here come the people.
“You had availability to some rent assistance, I hope you applied.
“This is a Government that listens and we have provided no compensation but what we have provided is some rent relief to businesses.”
The State Government has confirmed 51 retailers have applied for rent help with 34 approved and 30 currently paid.
At least one business has received $100,000.
Mr Constance said the Government was “not in the business” of compensating businesses who will ultimately benefit from the infrastructure.
Mr Constance said 13.5 kilometres of the project’s 25 kilometres had been completed, and work on the Queen Victoria Building station would commence in the new year.
“Thanks Sydney thus far, but we’ve got a long way to go,” he said.