THE proposed Woolworths development in Bermagui is still under consideration by the Bega Valley Shire Council, but the lack of communication over the issue is causing concern in the seaside town.
Earlier this year Woolworths announced it wanted to build a supermarket, liquor store and car park on a 1513sqm site on Young St, behind the current shopping precinct on Lamont St.
The proposal brought immediate opposition from local business and residents who voiced their concern in a community forum in April (BDN, 20/4) and made submissions against the development application to the council.
Since then, little has been heard about the progression of the Woolworths DA, with rumours and hearsay filling the void.
“The rumours are getting a little wild,” Bermagui Cellars owner Michael Trenerry said.
Mr Trenerry is firmly against the proposed Woolworths, giving a rousing speech about the issue at the community forum in April.
“Almost every day people come into my store with something new, one day it’s that Woolworths is building tomorrow, then another person will come in and say Woolies has given up and sold the land.”
Last month height poles went up at the Young St site, causing the rumour mill to go into overdrive.
Although the poles were erected at the request of BVSC staff as part of their DA assessment, the lack of notification led many in town to believe Woolworths was about to start building.
“That’s a good example, because if the council had notified the community there wouldn’t have been a problem, but instead it caused upset,” Mr Trenerry said.
With a recent council election bringing in four new councillors and a new mayor, Mr Trenerry said it provided an opportunity for fresh dialogue to be opened with Bermagui residents.
“I believe what needs to happen is for the new councillors – and the returning councillors – to come out and talk to local business people and hear our concerns and then make a fair and balanced discussion for themselves,” he said.
“However, I’m not the head of an official group opposing the development, I’m just one business.
“The invitation needs to be made, but it needs to come from the Chamber of Commerce or whoever.
“There can’t be a complaint that we are forgotten by council in Bermagui but with no outreach made to them from our town.”
Master Grocers Australia, the peak body for independent supermarkets, recently called on the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to look into the practices of supermarket giants like Woolworths building in regional areas.
With Woolworths in the surrounding towns of Bega, Narooma, Tura Beach and Merimbula, MGA is asking whether another store needs to be built in Bermagui.
“We are asking the ACCC to look into whether the major chains are subsidising a number of loss-making stores for anti-competitive purposes,” Rodney Allen from the MGA said.