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Editions

A hole lot of trouble brewing at the port

31 Jul 2012

A hole lot of trouble brewing at the port Image

By Melissa Chen

A dispute over potholes at the diner used by truckies visiting the Port of Melbourne may spark an industrial war.

The Port of Melbourne (PoM) rents the land for the diner from VicTrack but neither organisation is prepared to fix the potholes which have developed in the extensive carpark just on the northern side of Moonee Ponds Creek in Footscray Rd.

The lease has expired and diner operator Tass Koumakis says he is preparing to pack up and leave on September 16.

VicTrack expects the port to repair the potholes, but so far the Port of Melbourne is refusing to pay.

The port could get more than it bargained for if the diner is allowed to close.  The diner was created in response to angry truckies who blockaded the port when their Footscray Rd roadhouse made way for roadworks.  The Port Truckies Diner was supposed to be a temporary solution until a new facility was built.

Williamstown truck driver Paul “Robbo” Robinson predicts further industrial action if the stalemate results in the closure of the diner.

“It is up to the corporation to maintain the surface of the land,” Mr Robinson said.

But it’s clear to see why no one wants to pay for the repairs.  At $5000 per pothole, the repair bill is estimated at $300,000.

According to senior stakeholder and community relations adviser at VicTrack, Jason Murray, leaseholders are generally responsible for maintenance of the areas they lease.

“Discussions are underway between PoM and VicTrack to secure the land for continuing use as a truck stop,” Mr Murray said.

Port of Melbourne corporate affairs chief Peter Harry agrees: “There has been no decision made and discussions are ongoing,” he said.

According to Mr Robinson: “This is an embarrassment for the State Government. You don’t want to be the only port in Australia without a truck facility.”

Customers who come through to Port Diner are signing petitions to keep the diner open. To these truck drivers, having a facility where they can feed, sleep, shower and park indefinitely takes the edge off long-distance travels.

Both Mr Koumakis and Mr Robinson agree that, without the facility, the truck drivers will have nowhere to go.

“You can’t have infrastructure without providing parking for trucks,” Mr Robinson said.

“Should the corporation remove the parking lot, they will face a potential industrial action.”

The Transport Workers Union has not expressed any views on this matter.

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