By Brendan Rees
Jobs at a family-run nursery in Hampton Park are in jeopardy as plans for a major road upgrade will make the business “worse off.”
The State Government’s Hallam Road Upgrade aims to improve safety at the busy South Gippsland Highway intersection but will involve the compulsory acquisition of land at the front of the business.
Anthony Diaco, who manages the Diaco’s family’s Discount Nursery and Garden Rock Supplies with his father Vince, said the changes to Hallam Road will mean motorists will be prohibited from turning right into the business.
“We’re dumbfounded in this day and age,” said Mr Diaco. “If you’re going to do a major project like this you’d think you’d talk to the business owners in the area and just see how you can accommodate us.”
He said “there’s nothing we can do” with the compulsory land acquisition – “it’s hypocrisy.”
“We’ve been trying to fight it for the last couple of years,” he said. “They’ve backed me into a corner.”
“No one came and saw us if there was any needs we needed. It’s just ridiculous.
“I understand they’re trying to make the road better and trying to make it safer but at the same time business is here.“
He said about 20 employees depended “on this business for their livelihood – a lot of them are paying off loans, mortgages, sending their kids to school.”
“It’s going to affect the business substantially,” he said, adding the Major Road Projects Authority (MRPA) were not “not giving us any options.”
According to Mr Diaco, he has been told the speed limit on Hallam Road will be increased from 60km/h to 80km/h. “How is that making it safer? I can’t understand that.”
“A lot of our deliveries are quad dogs, semi-trailers and they come from interstate, so you’re actually going to create a traffic hazard; it’s going to cause an accident,” he said. “They’re going to be doing u-turns and that can’t be safe.”
Slater and Gordon senior associate Peter Boyle said the matter had been “very distressing” for his clients as the access they relied on to run their business “will be seriously impeded.”
“While my clients may have an entitlement to claim compensation arising from the acquisition and loss of access, their preference is for VicRoads to amend the design of the road to minimise the impact if possible,” he said.
In a statement, MRPA said: “During the early stages of planning retaining the current right turn movement into Diaco’s Garden Nursery was fully investigated, however the proximity of the Diaco’s entrance to the intersection severely impacts the safe operation of the intersection and overall traffic flow.”
MRPA acting program director Brendan Pauwels said upgrading the intersection and installing traffic lights would make travel safer for all road users.
“We’ll continue talking with local residents and business owners about what the changes mean for them during and after the works,” he said.