TRADERS are pushing for compensation after the Derrinallum bombing forced the three-week closure of the Hamilton Highway, costing them thousands of dollars in lost trade.
Businesses in Derrinallum, Lismore and Mortlake recorded a massive slump in turnover in what is normally regarded as one of their busiest trading periods.
The state government has rejected a special handout to compensate for the loss, saying funding is only available for incidents such as natural disasters. Instead, local MPs have suggested money for a major tourist campaign, encouraging visitors to travel to affected towns.
The government also announced yesterday that volunteer small business mentors would visit Derrinallum next week to provide business operators with free advice.
But the Mortlake Community Development Committee (MCDC) is keen to highlight the impact the road closure had on the town and is calling on the government to reconsider.
President Kelvin Goodall said some businesses had provided preliminary figures showing a total loss of up to $170,000 over the three-week period, compared with the previous year. Other traders are yet to estimate their downturn.
“For a place like Mortlake that’s a fair bit,” Mr Goodall said.
He said the timing of the explosions and police clean-up came during weeks of what should have been a busy flow of passing traffic due to school holidays, the Easter break, Anzac Day long weekend and Warrnambool’s May Racing Carnival.
“It’s seen as a little bit like a last hurrah before the cold and wet sets in.”
Mr Goodall said many business owners were upset that large electronic signs advised traffic to avoid the Hamilton Highway, pushing motorists onto the Princes Highway and Glenelg Highway.
The MCDC will write to Premier Denis Napthine, Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews and local MPs urging Mortlake to be included if compensation or community assistance is made available.
Mr Goodall said the incident should be compared with a disaster, such as a fire or flood, which attracted recovery funding from government.
“It was not predictable and it’s no fault of the people who are really suffering.”
He said there was early talk of a class action claim, but “our advice is probably not”.
The government’s small business bus will visit Derrinallum next Thursday from 10am to 4pm.
Member for Polwarth Terry Mulder said the government was committed to providing assistance to small business owners facing challenging times.
“Business owners affected by the recent road closure will be able to tap into expert advice on business recovery, provided by one of the pool of volunteers from the Small Business Mentoring Service,” Mr Mulder said.