Traders’ petition all go for tram-stop certainty

Local business owners, from left, Graham Moorby from Hertz; Hayley Luck, Universal Express Group; Quentin Ainscough, Jindebah Coffee; Linda and Ral van der Weyde, Choices Carpets; MTA secretary Julian Kusa, Therma Quilts and president Anthony Manning, Phoenix Gym, with the petition. Photo by Kathryn Vukovljak

A PETITION of 5000 signatures for a light rail stop in Mitchell will be submitted to the Legislative Assembly on March 19, says Julian Kusa, secretary of the Mitchell Traders Association.

The petition for the stop on the corner of Flemington Road and Sandford Street was started in October and now has 4300 paper signatures and 699 e-petition signatures.

“We’re hoping the petition will give the government enough encouragement to make public when the light rail stop will be operational,” says Julian.

“Businesses in Mitchell want certainty. We can’t make business decisions based on, ‘you’ll get a stop in the future’, because the future could be 10 or 30 years down the track.”

Julian says the original light rail design included two optional stops for Mitchell at Lysaght Street and Sandford Street in 2013, but both were dropped from the final plan.

He says that while it’s understood that the Mitchell stop will be costed in Stage 2 of the light rail project, business owners need written confirmation of when this will be.

“The light rail is not a one or two-year project, there are many stages to go and we just want confirmation that the stop is going ahead and when,” he says.

As part of having a light rail stop, Julian says there’s an expectation from the MTA that all public transport will be integrated, including footpaths, cycle lanes, a bus interchange, bicycle station and a Park and Ride facility.

“The 2011 census showed that Mitchell outperforms Braddon, Dickson and Gungahlin as a business precinct, and employs more than 4000 people.

“We were baffled as to why, if the government wants people to use public transport, did they bypass this business district? It doesn’t make sense to us.

“We definitely want the light rail to work, but we feel that a stop in Mitchell is warranted.”

Julian says the reasons given were low usage and the increase in travel time from Gungahlin to Civic caused by stopping in Mitchell, but he believes the lack of a functional stop creates the impression there’s nothing worth going to Mitchell for.

“The general public will think there’s nothing here, which is absolutely not true,” he says.

“Mitchell is a growing and changing business district, it’s not just industrial and brothels.

“We have yoga studios, sports recreational facilities, children’s dance studios, web app designers, a 3D printing studio, beauty school, coffee shops, gaming stores and government offices.

“We thought the government would look after our best interests, and in terms of investment and business opportunity if there’s no stop in Mitchell, what that says is that Mitchell is not worth coming to.”

In terms of collecting signatures, Julian says the paper petition was placed across various small businesses in the suburb.

“People’s reaction to finding out that Mitchell is being bypassed by the light rail has been disbelief that it wasn’t considered in the first place,” he says.

The MTA is also proposing a Mitchell Masterplan identifying areas for district improvement – better signage, updated streetscapes and amenities and increased street lights.

“It’s a neglected suburb and what the MTA has been trying to do is build bridges,” says Julian.

“We want to be taken seriously, we have problems and we want the government to address them in a timely manner.

“We have put $7.2m in rates last year and we would like to see a small portion of that come back to Mitchell.”

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