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April 21, 2024

Lennox roadworks delayed to save local businesses

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Lennox Village Vision roadworks, August 2022. Photo David Lowe.

Small businesses in Lennox Head are breathing a sigh of relief after Ballina Shire Council resolved yesterday to delay the next stage of Lennox Village Vision roadworks from later this month until after Anzac Day.

The meeting opened with a deputation from local businesswoman Dee Driscoll of Lennox Sanctum. She spoke in support of the motion to delay, which was put forward by Cr Kiri Dicker.

Ms Driscoll told councillors that 2022 had been ‘really hard’ for Lennox businesses, with floods, roadworks and a lack of communication from Ballina Council about the resulting ongoing disruption to trade, which was extended due to weather and other issues.

While acknowledging the roadworks needed to be done, she also noted that small businesses create prosperous communities and drive local economies, and said everyone in Lennox was struggling, with many heartbreaking stories. ‘Not just just financially but emotionally, and mentally.

Footpath under repair, Lennox Head, August 2022. Photo David Lowe.

‘We understand that the stages need to go ahead but we are begging, asking you for a reprieve,’ she said. ‘Give us a break. We haven’t had a good run for three years. It’s soul destroying…’

Ms Driscoll said that like many people she has had to lay off staff and buy stock she can’t sell, due to the ongoing disruption, which was due to start again very soon.

‘People are not coming into their village when the road work is on. It’s like a ghost town. To work so hard, for so long, it’s devastating.’

She said that some businesses would not survive if roadworks returned so soon after the brief window of calm, pleading with councillors to delay the next stage of the village upgrade to give businesses a chance to recover.

Balance

Cr Kiri Dicker introduced her motion by reflecting on the multiple roles councillors played in the community.

Having previously advocated the long term benefits of the Lennox Village Vision to local businesses herself, she now felt she had to advocate on behalf of businesses to call for a delay in further disruption, saying eight weeks break was not nearly enough.

Ballina Cr Kiri Dicker. Photo David Lowe.

‘It’s really important that we we acknowledge that the work we do doesn’t exist in a contextual vacuum, and that the conditions which businesses are trying to navigate are constantly changing.’

Cr Dicker said rising inflation and the housing crisis (leading to staff shortages) on top of endless roadworks were now directly affecting the mental and physical health of small business owners.

She said there was no public demand to urgently finish the next stage of roadworks, which include traffic calming constructions, and noted there were more stages after that to be completed anyway.

‘Businesses are begging us for some relief,’ said Cr Dicker, suggesting that the best immediate solution was a delay until after Anzac Day and the Easter school holidays.

Federal money yet to appear

During the following discussion it emerged that federal money promised by Justine Elliot to complete the Lennox Village Vision was yet to appear, with Ballina Council now being in the position of having to apply for the money ($1.5m), instead of just receiving it.

Other councillors worried that the roadworks might not be finished in time for the Love Lennox festival on 3 June, with the suggestion that this event might have to be delayed.

Staff said there were also issues around when existing grant monies for roadwork had to be spent, which meant the Lennox roadworks could not be pushed indefinitely into the future, although there was no shortage of other jobs for road crews to be working on, if the Lennox work was temporarily delayed.

Lennox Village Vision roadworks, August 2022. Photo David Lowe.

Cr Rod Bruem suggested a longer pause, of twelve months, but this did not find any support.

Cr Phil Meehan said he understood the ‘fatigue’ being experienced by local businesses, but also said it would be a mistake to put the necessary works off for too long, using the analogy of a delayed visit to the dentist.

Cr Eoin Johnston said ‘this has got to be the only council in Australia at the moment with a community saying “please don’t finish the job”! Having said that, I’ll support it,’ he said.

Cr Simon Chate suggested delaying the recommencement of works until July or August, but found no support.

Eventually, Cr Dicker’s motion to delay the next stage of road work until after Anzac Day passed unanimously.

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