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Motels want cops to pay up following police op cancellation

Rohan Wijeyekoon, manager of Riverside Holiday Apartments is not happy, he is calling for police to reimburse him following last minute cancellation. Photo Doug Eaton / The Northern Star
Rohan Wijeyekoon, manager of Riverside Holiday Apartments is not happy, he is calling for police to reimburse him following last minute cancellation. Photo Doug Eaton / The Northern Star Doug Eaton

THE manager of a Ballina holiday apartment complex is calling on NSW Police Minister Stuart Ayres to cough up $50,000 in lost bookings after last week's cancellation of the police operation at Bentley.

Motels across the North Coast suffered an abrupt volley of cancellations by police last Thursday following the last-minute suspension of Metgasco's PEL16 by Resources Minister Anthony Roberts.

At Riverside Holiday Apartments in Ballina, NSW Police cancelled a three-week booking for 16 of Riverside's 20 rooms, which was for a rotating force of 36 officers.

In response, Riverside Holiday Apartments manager Rohan Wijeyekoon has sent a letter to Mr Ayres requesting $51,765 by the end of May.

Mr Wijeyekoon wrote "immaterial of the political pros and cons of the CSG debate, simply on a business

perspective ... we have been catastrophically affected and require adequate compensation".

"Having dealings with NSW Police in the past, in good faith we took these bookings without applying our standard policy of full payment of bulk block bookings."

Because of the late-notice cancellation, Riverside was expected to be "practically empty" until June 7, Mr Wijeyekoon said, because it lost the opportunity to find replacement bookings.

He said the complex turned down about $10,000 of bookings leading up to the planned police operation.

"We are getting the odd booking but nowhere near enough," he said.

"Since Sunday, excluding a booking that came in late last year, the place was empty."

Ten other motels in Ballina had also suffered cancellations and the town was now "devoid" of visitors.

"Just walking around town there's no people bar the locals, because there's nobody staying here."

It's understood about 40 accommodation providers were booked by NSW Police including Casino, Lismore Ballina, Lennox Head and as far north as Tweed Heads.

We spoke to other motels in Lismore and Ballina whose managers preferred to remain anonymous because they were happy with the outcome at Bentley.

But one manager lamented not asking for a deposit, laughing that she didn't ask because it was the police.

Greens MLC Jan Barham has also called for accommodation providers to be compensated.

Mr Wijeyekoon's letter was CC'd to local NSW MPs Don Page and Thomas George, Federal Member for Page Kevin Hogan, Minister Roberts and local police.

Mr Ayres's office was asked whether it had acknowledged the impact of the cancellations and what compensation it would offer.

A spokeswoman issued a statement saying "NSW Police has been dealing with operators on a case by case basis".

Topics:  bentley blockade, csg, metgasco



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