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Woolworths stalls plans pending review

by Cameron Outridge

Woolworths has announced that it is reviewing the development of a supermarket on the banks of Maleny’s Obi Obi Creek.

Woolworths CEO Roger Corbett said that the developer, Cornerstone Properties Limited, had been asked to hold further planning on the project, pending a thorough and complete exploration of all possibilities with Woolworths; the residents of Maleny and surrounding districts; and the Caloundra City Council.

“We have listened to all interested parties, including residents, Council and the developer and we feel further consultation is now required,” Mr Corbett said. “Our own research and our interactions with residents during our visits have shown a depth of community concern about this site.   Because of this, we will review the current project, including the possibility of locating upon another suitable alternative site, thus creating the opportunity for a co-operative resolution of the issues of concern,” he said.

Woolworths Property Manager Peter Thomas said the decision was made in the light of issues that had been brought to his company’s attention by residents.   “Clearly had people not brought forth the issues we would not have hesitated in developing on that site,’’ Mr Thomas said. “We’re going to take stock of this and look for a better solution for the residents of Maleny, for Cornerstone and for Woolworths.”

Mr Thomas, who visited Maleny in December to gauge public concern, said the decision proved Woolworths meant what it said. Woolworths stalls plans pending review “I’ve said continually from the start ‘you tell us what you feel and we will take those issues on board’.    Well, that’s exactly what we’ve done.”   Mr Thomas said his company now had three broad options.  “In simple terms we can develop on Boxsells, find an alternative site in Maleny on which to develop, or not enter the Maleny market at all.

“I was in Maleny yesterday (Monday) to physically look at the town and see what other locations might be available. I also met with the Mayor and CEO of Caloundra City Council to explain the reasons for our decision to review the proposal.” Mr Thomas said he also spoke to the Council about its policies and preferences. “It is appropriate to see what they will support and what they don’t support.”

Mr Thomas said while there was no “straw that broke the camel’s back”, the survey had added tangible weight to the strength of public opposition. “We commissioned a survey to understand whether it was the site as opposed to Woolies that was drawing opposition and it was clear that if you take the site aspect out of the equation people are quite positive upon the prospect of Woolies establishing in Maleny.”

Mr Thomas said the consultation process would continue. “As the days and weeks pass I will be up there again myself and I will talk to the local residents.   “I’m very pleased by the manner in which people have brought these matters to our attention and respectful of their reasons for doing so.”

Retain Maleny’s Character spokesman Lindsay Kruger said it was “wonderful news for the community”.  “However we have not won yet until the land is resumed by Council,’’ he said.  “We are nearly there but we haven’t won.  “Until the block is resumed that battle is not over.

This issue has brought this community together where now people have a sense of pride and a feeling that they can have a say in their future and the development of the area.” Mr Kruger said even if Woolworths moved to a different site opposition would not necessarily change.

Platypus People power.Maleny environmental group, Platypus People, gathered at the site this week to celebrate Woolworths’ decision to review . Pic Garry Claridge

“RMC opposes Woolworths or Coles establishing themselves in Maleny due to environmental, economic, social and business and commercial reasons.” Platypus Action Group spokesman Jon Woodlands, whose group opposed the supermarket primarily on environmental grounds, said he was overjoyed.

“It’s wonderful news. But we need to treat it with some caution because it’s not signed, sealed and delivered.   “The best thing is the way the community has got together.   It’s generated a lot of good feeling and been empowering and it means there are a lot of really good possibilities for Maleny for the future.

“My feeling is that we really are on the verge of great victory. It’s been virtually five months of work and I guess the next step is to stay in communication with Council. We’re still hoping that Caloundra City Council will acquire the land from Cornerstone.   I have been talking regularly with Pauline Clayton and I am confident that they’re moving in a positive direction.”  “It was a roller coaster ride. Most people were encouraging – but the underlying feeling was always ‘you can’t fight progress’.

“I think what Woolies have done is quite bold – that they have listened. I got the impression at that meeting in December that Peter Thomas was listening.”    Range News columnist Michael Berry said the news had wider implications for communities and big business.  

“This sends a message to the development industry to be aware of Maleny – that it’s a community that is mature and knows where it wants to go. And it serves to encourage other communities to work out their own futures.   “Developers do keep their ears to the ground, so they’ll know what has happened and what to expect.”

Our thanks once again to Cameron & Tanya Outridge
of the Range News Newspaper for this story.