22 April 2010 – This aerial photograph shows land on the outskirts of Mullumbimby in northern NSW, where horses graze on grassland that is surrounded by bush on two sides and a caravan park on another.
In 2006 the NSW Planning Minister approved a Woolies supermarket on this land. The local council opposed the project but had no power to prevent it because the planning laws give all control to the planning minister.
Supermarkets operate a business model that aims to win at least 20 per cent of customers from existing shops. To achieve this, the chain offers unending specials, low prices and a barrage of advertising until the shops fail. Using this model, and unrestrained by decades of spineless anti-monopoly regulators, only two supermarkets — Coles and Woolworths— between them reap 80 per cent of Australia’s shopping business.
The Mullumbimby project will kill off many of the town’s main-street businesses, typically within the supermarket’s first 18 months of trading. The few local businesses that can afford to rent on the main street will find that at rent renewal time in five years they can no longer can, and they will disappear, never to resurface in the main street.*
Food will be imported from thousands of kilometres away. Local farmers will lose and some will fail, too. The town will have new social problems.
Woolies will show growth and a rise in market share.
And so the planning system hands privileged profits to monopolies at the expense of small business.
The minister was a fool to vandalise a local economy and pierce the social confidence and glue of it.
If you wish to challenge Woolies to find some ethical bones in its swinish carcass, go to this website where locals are challenging this corporate vandal to share the costs of a local poll to find out the percentage of folk who support putting a supermarket on this land: www.magicalmullum.com
You may save a few jobs, a few local farmers and what remains of Woolies’ integrity.
You might wonder what kind of person a planning minister is who would make such a rotten decision?
The answer has been provided by the NSW Parliamentary Bird Watchers Society, a small but well-binoculared bunch that has provided the following list of the creatures who may hold the office of NSW Planning Minister: a popinjay; a rant-nosed sloth; a bag-carrying bloatbelly and a reviled hooting sturgeon.
Craftsfolk in the Taxidermy Office, where washed-up or road-kill planning ministers are stuffed, have a saying: “Bilious words, bilious thoughts bringeth forth the bilious corpse; therefore hold tight the knife and the nose and speed up the stuffing.”
To see a stuffed popinjay, or any of these other birds that have spent a lifetime fouling our citizens’ nests, you may come upon them, surprisingly lifelike, in a large aviary-like building in Macquarie Street wrongly labelled Parliament House. If they’re not there, they’re out to lunch, probably with Woollies or Coles, stuffing themselves, sans taxidermist.
* Excellent data and case studies at: www.loveyourlocals.com.au/
Michael Mobbs consults with private and public sector developers and their project teams to design, obtain approvals and funding for sustainable projects, particularly urban farm projects.