West Gate Tunnel billboard destruction leads to $8 million in damages

The West Gate Tunnel project in Melbourne has so far been plagued by toxic soil, commercial disputes, lengthy delays and a $4.5 billion blowout. Now it faces another, albeit smaller, headache: an argument over a billboard that was knocked over to make way for the new road.

Advertising giant oOh!media is demanding $8.7 million for the loss of its Spotswood billboard in a dispute that has ended up in the Victorian Supreme Court.

The West Gate Tunnel highway in Melbourne will not be ready until the end of 2025.

The West Gate Tunnel highway in Melbourne will not be ready until the end of 2025.Credit:Jason South

The Department of Transport initially offered just $120,000 when it acquired the land in 2018 to begin construction on the tunnel, which will run under the Maribyrnong River and connect the West Gate Freeway to CityLink in Docklands.

But the advertising agency’s attorneys at Arnold Bloch Leibler have argued that he was entitled to compensation for the “destruction” of his company on the site, including 20 years of lost profits from the giant banners.

The department moved slightly last November, raising its bid to $250,000 to pay for a new sign to be built at a different location along the West Gate freeway.

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The advertising agency also declined this offer. The ASX-listed group said it was open to accepting a new sign as part of the compensation, but the department’s proposed location was difficult to see from the highway, meaning “advertising would be seriously compromised and would not be commercially viable”.

In any case, it turned out that a cell tower for mobile telephony had already been built on that spot, according to court documents.

The Department of Transportation sent the dispute to the Supreme Court on May 24 to settle it under the Land Purchase and Compensation Act. Both the department and oOh! declined to comment while the case was in court.

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