Waiting for the dust to settle
ONE of Byron Shire's largest employers said it is struggling to keep its doors open due to construction of the Pacific Highway upgrade from Brunswick Heads to Yelgun. Greg Milham, owner of Sanctum at Billinudgel, is being forced to sell his house to pay for the losses he has made as a direct result of the noise and pollution from the road works. "I can't keep extending the mortgage," Mr Milham said. Sanctum, manufacturer of certified organic skin and body products, employs 20 local people. Mr Milham said if it weren't for his concern for his staff, he would have thrown in the towel and closed the factory's doors in January this year. Last year dust from the roadworks contaminated products made in the Sanctum factory. To solve the problem Mr Milham was forced to close the factory for seven weeks from December of 2006 to February this year. During this time the factory walls and ceilings were lined and sealed and a hospital grade air filtration system was installed. "Work that I did not need to do (before the roadworks started)," Mr Milham said. "We were forced to dump $20,000 worth of product and the cost of upgrading the factory was $125,000. "And while the factory was closed we lost, conservatively, over $10,000 a day while we were unable to manufacture back orders. "That does not count the amount of lost custom when we had to close the factory for the work to be done." But pleas for help from Mr Milham to the RTA, Abigroup and the NSW Minister for Roads Eric Rozendaal have fallen on deaf ears. "I haven't had a satisfactory response from anyone," Mr Milham said. "Forty-six emails I have sent to the RTA and Abigroup since June 2005 regarding the dust issue and in the end I was told that if I have a problem I would have to take it to court. "We have sent a number of letters from our solicitors, but going to court is a problem because if you followed that avenue you would need $50,000 to $100,000 to start the process and I can't afford it. "Having to sell my house, well, I am over the shock stage and you have to get on with life." Mr Milham said Sanctum now had a better factory but the work was not necessary until construction of the highway started. "The one we had was sufficient, we have been here for nine years without a problem," Mr Milham said. "I did not have to spend $125,000 and it was our 20 staff who were the basis of our decision to keep going. "All this happened just before Christmas and imagined the thought of having to tell everyone they had no job." Angry at the lack of communication he has received over the matter from Abigroup, the contractors for the project, and the RTA, Mr Milham wrote to Mr Rozendaal in January, informing him of Sanctum's predicament.