For three years, the owner of the Macadamia Castle Tony Gilding has been seeking compensation for what he describes as the ‘theft’ of a large part of his property by NSW Roads and Maritime Services (RMS).
Mr Gilding says three acres of the local tourist attraction have effectively been stolen because the traffic noise from the Pacific Highway is so loud the land can’t be used for anything.
‘I have no room to grow without this land,’ Mr Gilding says.
‘I’ve sold my home and invested my retirement income to keep this business afloat, but in this industry if you’re not expanding, you’re not going to survive in the long term.’
Mr Gilding concedes that he knew the Pacific Highway duplication was going to be built when he bought the business 12 years ago, but he believes the current noise levels far exceed those predicted by the RMS.
‘Unfortunately I have no way of proving that, because RMS are refusing to do any noise testing and I can’t afford to have it done myself,’ he says.
He has been fighting tooth and nail for the government to compensate him for the lost territory, asking that they provide him with three acres of unused Crown land at the south end of his property.
However, he says that despite having a meeting with roads minister Melinda Pavey, a hearing before the small business commissioner, and multiple conversations with the Parliamentary Secretary for the Northern Rivers, Ben Franklin, nothing has been done.
‘The minister told me at our meeting that she would get back to me, but I’ve sent five letters to her and called multiple times and she hasn’t replied or responded even once,’ he says.
He also feels let down by Mr Franklin, who is standing for the state seat of Ballina at the upcoming state election, questioning his claim to have the Macquarie Street connections and clout to achieve outcomes for local people.
‘Ben Franklin has done his best, but sadly failed to get the issue addressed,’ he says.
‘He suggested mediation with the small business commissioner which I did, but after spending weeks preparing for and attending hearings, and over $5,000 in legal costs, I was advised that it is government policy not to mitigate noise affects for businesses and to seek legal advice.
‘Ben Franklin promises he can open doors in Macquarie Street, but so far that hasn’t been my experience. I think the government knows the situation is unfair, but they’re afraid to confront me.’
Mr Franklin told The Echo he had been working with Mr Gilding for the past three years in an attempt to address his concerns.
‘I absolutely understand why he wants a land swap and I am extremely empathetic to his position,’ he said.
Mr Franklin said Mr Gilding would be receiving a phone call from the chief of staff to the finance minister to discuss the possibility of a land swap.
But Mr Gilding said he held out little hope of action as ‘I’ve had numerous meetings with political staffers over the past three years and nothing ever happens’.
A spokesperson for the small business commissioner said the office did not comment on specific cases.