Local governments are being encouraged to sign up to a new charter designed to improve construction disruption for Victorian small businesses.
The new initiative, spearheaded by Victorian small business commissioner Judy O’Connell, went live earlier this week, with the City of Yarra and Glen Eira councils signing on as early adopters.
Through the charter, O’Connell hopes to minimise the pain being felt by businesses across the state which have been harmed by government construction projects.
SmartCompany has previously covered cases where business owners have shut up shop after being disrupted by construction activity being undertaken as part of Victoria’s ‘big build’.
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Award-winning pastry chef Pierrick Boyer blamed Victorian state government projects for the slow demise of his Melbourne-based cafe last year.
Boyer complained there was no prior warning of construction activity in his area, with no effort on behalf of the state government to communicate its plans to local businesses before they were in motion.
“They don’t really care,” he told SmartCompany at the time.
“Work needs to be done, I understand, but the communication … how can you operate in such a difficult situation?”
The new charter commits local governments to work with their state-based counterparts to assist businesses in understanding construction plans in their local areas.
Signatories promise to abide by the Victorian Small Business Commissioner’s small business engagement guidelines, which outlines processes for impact assessment, communication and disruption mitigation planning.
Stephanie Vroom, owner of Richmond-based Maker Coffee, says businesses in her area have experienced construction disruption firsthand in recent years.
“This is a great communication path that can help,” Vroom tells SmartCompany.
O’Connell says the charter should go some way to helping businesses struggling with state and local government works.
“We are carrying out this work collaboratively because local councils play such an important role in supporting small businesses within their local community,” O’Connell said.
City of Yarra Mayor Danae Bosler says many businesses are assuming construction works are local government projects, which is creating confusion she hopes will be cleared up by the charter.
“Often we’re not the person who can fix the problem, but we can act as the middle ground,” she tells SmartCompany.
“Nine times out of 10 notification comes via paperwork, having that constant means of communication means we have other means as well.”
Bosler says the charter will also help councils improve local business support networks, which are, in her view, the “best way” to get the word out about construction projects to local firms.
Signatories of the charter also pledge to ensure small business payment times are within 30 days and to streamline the approval process for council business permits.
Vroom says that’s welcome news because getting approval for her cafe was a lengthy process.
Minister for Local Government and Small Business Adem Somyurek told SmartCompany he thought the government had done a good job of communicating with businesses so far but believes the charter will enhance existing efforts.
“Victoria is the best state in Australia in which to build a small business and we are increasing support for this important sector — local governments are an important part of that equation,” he said.
Somyurek encouraged policymakers in other states, including NSW, to adopt the charter model.