Fishermans Co-op manager Phil Hilliard (blue shirt) and Alister Robertson stock up.
Fishermans Co-op manager Phil Hilliard (blue shirt) and Alister Robertson stock up.

Bypass op hurts sales

THE week after the long-awaited Ballina bypass opened, sales were halved at the Ballina Fishermen's Co-op.

Four months later, co-op manager Phil Hilliard says the seafood store and fish and chip shop is down about a third on trade it was doing before the bypass's southern section opened in December.

"We went backwards at 100 miles per hour the week the bypass opened, we lost 40% to 50% of passing trade," Mr Hilliard said. "After two weeks it came back a bit, now we have settled at a fall in trade of 30% to 35%."

The Fishermen's Co-op is in West Ballina, about 2km from the Ballina CBD, on what used to be the Pacific Hwy. It's now called River St and carries nothing like the same level of traffic..

"It is the Queensland school holidays. We should be full but I've got one person here," he said.

Nearby, McDonalds has also suffered a drop in business since the bypass opened and diverted highway traffic around Ballina.

"It has definitely slowed down, but not by as much as we thought," McDonalds' franchisee Scott Campbell said.

Business is down 15%, not the 30% expected, he said.

The bypass was a long time coming and Mr Campbell had a contingency plan that involved moving the business closer to town.

"We have a new site on the corner of Kerr St and Bangalow Rd. We broke ground last week," he said.

The general view is that business in Ballina hasn't been affected by the bypass and the general ambience of the town has improved, Ballina Chamber of Commerce executive officer Nadia Eliott-Burgess said.

"It has really opened up parking, it is much better for local traffic," she said.

"However, there are a small number of businesses that have been hit, and they have been hit hard."

Fast food outlets, like the fishermen's co-op and McDonalds and motels were among those feeling the pinch.

Michael Brown, owner of the Fun N Sun hotel in West Ballina, agreed there had been a "definite drop" in business. However, he said the bypass couldn't take all the credit for that - the global financial crisis was making it hard for a lot of businesses.

Other West Ballina business owners remain optimistic. Judy Ellison signed a 22-year lease to run the Chaparral motel last Friday.

"By all accounts we have been busier than before the bypass," she said. "The Pacific Hwy outside is much quieter," she said.

Mr Hilliard acknowledged Brunswick Heads and Bangalow had become stronger after being bypassed by the highway, but noted it took up to two years.

"You need deep pockets to get through that," he said.


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