Seventy-two-year-old Hariklia Vorgiatzidis and her sick husband Nikos are heartbroken that their Footscray home will be bulldozed to make way for the Victorian Government’s $4.3 billion Regional Rail Link project.
The couple, who have spent the last 42 years in Buckley Street had no idea their house was on the hit list until television crews turned up at their front door on Tuesday.
“I am very worried for the future because my husband is a very sick man,” she said to Neos Kosmos.
“We demolished and rebuilt a contemporary house with the necessary comfort for my husband who is recovering from a stroke and now all of a sudden we learn through the media that our precious house will be demolished in the next two years.”
The couple’s home is amon-gst up to 115 properties earmarked for demolition to make way for a regional rail line through the western suburbs, a new road tunnel, and a truck route from the port to the West Gate Freeway.
Twenty-six of those properties reside on Buckley Street.
Although the Victorian government announced the multi-billion dollar Victorian Transport Plan project 18 months ago, the updated plan which reveals the houses earmarked for demolition was only just unveiled by Premier John Brumby on Monday.
Ms Vorgiatzidis acknowledged that she had received a letter in March informing her of the rail link project however did not understand that her house would be affected.
Additional residents of Buckley Street echoed their distress when the media beat government officials to their doors.
“I’m particularly concerned about the older residents in the street whose English is very poor,” said Greens MP for the Western Metropolitan region, Colleen Hartland.
“Why didn’t the government send people in weeks ago to sit down with interpreters and walk people through the situation so they knew exactly what they were up against?”
Public Transport Minister Martin Pakula admitted the Government had mishandled the process of informing local residents.
“I’m disappointed and annoyed that any residents in Footscray found out information about property acquisition from the media,” he told media sources, adding that a letter would be sent to affected households explaining the bungle.
Ms Vorgiatzidis said that she and her husband were uncertain about the future.
“We don’t know whether we will be compensated adequately by the Government in order to replace our house,” she said.
“It goes without saying of course that nothing compensates for the special bond with the house that we have spent half our lives in.”
Talking to Neos Kosmos, a spokesperson for Mr Pakula said that houses affected would be given compensation above the market value.
“Each person’s specific needs will be addressed by the Regional Railing Team,” he said. The exact details and timeframe for the compensation is yet to be released.