SEVERAL impassioned speakers petitioned Wednesday’s meeting of the Bega Valley Shire Council on the sensitive subject of a Woolworths for Bermagui.
While several of them reiterated the council received 382 submissions on the Woolworths development application, of which 351 were against the supermarket’s arrival, it was left to six speakers plead the opposition case this week.
Most striking was Kathleen Sherwin-Ozawa’s speech imploring councillors to listen to their ratepayers.
“These are our homes, and the occupants those who built this community,” she said to great applause from the public gallery.
Ms Sherwin-Ozawa was one of four Bermagui residents and property owners to petition council, while Frances Perkins was also there on behalf of the National Trust Far South Coast branch, and Johannes Wuerbels represented independent assessors Wakefield Planning.
Resident Geoff Steel highlighted the potential “downstream economic impacts” on community groups other than the local businesses he said were bound to be affected.
“It’s hard to argue there’s a silent majority,” he said, in reference to the public submissions.
Mr Steel said sports groups and arts initiatives such as Sculpture on the Edge rely on donations from local businesses and would suffer as a result of those businesses losing custom to Woolworths.
“We also don’t believe a town with a limited police force should have a third liquor store,” Mr Steel said.
Neil McPherson, who has spoken out against the development proposal since it was first announced early last year, suggested the council build a temporary structure of poles and hessian to visually gauge the impact it would have on the low-density residential zone surrounding the Young St site.
Ms Perkins also questioned the visual impact of a typical Woolworths, suggesting if it were to be approved, architecture and heritage values of Bermagui should be considered.
“The conditions set down by the council address some, but by no means, all of the concerns of the National Trust,” she said.
Ms Perkins said a timber-clad building similar to the Fishermen’s Wharf could be considered, adding that the wharf’s designer, renowned architect Phillip Cox, had also suggested a potential design for a supermarket and would be willing to discuss it.
“The design should reinforce the character of Bermagui,” Ms Perkins said.
Meanwhile, resident Cathy McGee and Wakefield Planning representative Mr Wuerbels used their allocated time to highlight potential implications on other businesses in Bermagui and surrounding towns.
“It’s good to talk about how Woolworths will look, but I want to talk about what Woolworths will do,” Ms McGee said, labelling the company “ruthless and rapacious”.
“Many other local businesses will be squashed.”
Mr Wuerbels said the impact would spread wider than Bermagui’s existing supermarket SPAR.
He said Wakefield Planning’s report found about 30 per cent of Bermagui’s businesses were already unprofitable in the tourist town’s seasonally affected market and that Woolworths “would render these unviable”.
“Locating the Woolworths behind the main street essentially encourages one-stop shopping,” he said.
“There’s a flow-on effect to non-food businesses as well – business support services such as accountants and so on.”