Support found lacking

OUTGOING Old Gipptown manager Michael Fozard has criticised the State Government for its lack of support for small businesses and the community.

Mr Fozard said the State Government’s failure to allocate decent funding to the park was the main reason for his resignation, but said excessive “bureaucracy and legislation” were contributing factors.

“When you’re looking at what is happening here in Gippsland it’s a tragedy to see what is happening. We’re being destroyed,” Mr Fozard said.

During his eight years at the park Mr Fozard has helped turn the park into a social enterprise, helping the unemployed gain experience through ‘work for the dole’ and other community benefit programs.

He said the government continued to make it difficult for not only Old Gippstown, but other small businesses to employ more people with “unaffordable” penalty rates.

“We’re a tourist attraction. Our busiest period is Easter, but the Department of Sustainability and Environment won’t give us support. For us to employ anybody we’ve got to pay 255 per cent,” Mr Fozard said.

“This year we now have to close Easter Saturday and Easter Monday because they’ve been declared a public holiday.”

He said this and similar problems stemmed from a disconnection between government and the community.

“The government has lost contact with reality, lost contact with understanding the community’s needs and that of small businesses,” Mr Fozard said.

“You’ve got no idea what impost you’re putting on small businesses. You’ve got no idea of how difficult it is to operate a small business; they’re collapsing, they’re finding it harder and harder to operate.

“We’re being regulated out of existence and they have got no idea of the implications this is having on our economy. They say things are prosperous, but they’re not from a business perspective.”

Mr Fozard said he was “seriously considering” forming a political pressure group, that could “represent the community”.

“Unless we do something they’re going to destroy the whole fabric of our Australian society,” he said.

DSE, which oversees the board of management’s running of the park said its support was “largely of a non-financial nature”.

“DSE has provided some financial support to Old Gippstown in the past for one-off issues such as a $60,000 grant for flood relief last year after the park was affected by a storm event,” a DSE spokesperson said.

“It is in the interests of the board, the Latrobe community and DSE to see Old Gippstown survive and thrive as it provides a great service to the community.”

State Member for Narracan Gary Blackwood did not respond to The Express’s request for comment before print deadline.