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Mullumbimby says NO to Woolworths Development at Council Meeting

Mullumbimby says NO to Woolworths Development at Council Meeting

May 14th saw democracy in action at Byron Shire Council Chambers and in the words of MCAN spokesperson Deborah Lilly, "the chambers rocked with a full house of lively, humorous and sometimes rude, protesters who were unanimous in their opposition to Woolworths proposed supermarket in Mullumbimby". Residents and community representatives were invited to comment on the latest Section 96 application to vary the original Development Application by Woolworths and they were determined to have their voices heard."NO to Woolworths!" shouted more than 200 people who attended the public meeting. At one stage in the evening a surprise powerpoint presentation by Luis Cristia from Prince Street, revealed the true size and appearance of the Woolworths box. This blew away Woolworths graphical illusion of a leafy Station Street with no apparent building and no traffic. This brought jeers from the crowd and calls for the DA to be started again. View Presentation

Woolworths made a predictable presentation highlighting expected jobs (100?), traineeships (mainly butchers and bakers) and donations to charities. This sounded good on the surface but the claimed amount of $4M dollars spread over all the shops in the country (well over 1000) equals approximately $4000 per store, significantly less than local businesses put into local community groups per year (approx. $100,000 p.a.)  Woolworths also presented their "green" agenda for the shop, however they did not address the huge wastage of fuel used in their distribution system and the inequalities inherent in the farming and procurement practices which they encourage.

Mullumbimby Community Action Network were then invited to address Woolworths representatives, Councillors and the community. MCAN thanks Byron Shire Council, especially Ray Darney and Mayor Jan Barham for giving us space to have our say on behalf of community.

mullumbimby action network at council chambers

Deborah Lilly challenged the Woolworths "Sustainability Strategy - Doing the Right Thing" propaganda with a list of environmental/green omissions from their proposed building. They included, "No windows (except around the entrance) therefore the lights must be on; no rainwater tanks - we do have droughts here - your roof would have the largest catchment in the town; no composting area; Woolworths' policy of compacting and dumping food wastes in landfill causes methane gas emissions 21x more globally warming than CO2; Woolworths' policy of using air-cooled air-conditioning units are highly energy intensive and generate excessive noise, especially when they are on a roof.  These are simple and obvious ways for the building to be more sustainable."  (This was not the time to extrapolate on Woolworths support of unsustainable farming methods).

March Cochrane, a real estate valuer with years of experience in the area, stated that house prices in Station Street and nearby streets will be devalued by at least 10% to 20%.  With over 40 houses affected it adds up to at least two million dollars being effectively stolen from the community.  He also commented that the proposed  Woolworths "box" will draw trade out of the main streets of Mullumbimby.  He said that only a 10% drop in passing trade will cause many small shops to go out of business.  He noted that when the GST was implemented, about five shops in Mullumbimby closed down, and it took nearly two years to fill those shops.

gary streets section96 woolworths Gary Streets spoke passionately about why he moved to Mullumbimby and how the town centre functions to unite the community. He also pointed to the historical fact that big block shopping centres such as Woolworths, built out of the main business areas, cause towns to become derelict. He cited examples of Kempsey, Coff's Harbour, Lismore and Murwillumbah, "We are not going to let that happen in Mullumbimby", he said, to a rousing cheer from the audience.

Duncan Dey spoke on the sewerage issue.  He took exception to the term, "interim sewer connection' in the application. He said this is a de-facto permanent connection to an already overloaded sewage system. Mullumbimby's sewerage plant is overstressed beyond its capacity. Developers have been queuing for years since the mid-nineties waiting for the sewerage plant to be upgraded and now Woolworths want to jump the queue.

Concluding the meeting Mayor Jan Barham summed up by saying, "This evening has been full of passion. The reason for this is that Council rejected the supermarket development on solid grounds, including flooding, traffic, noise and impact on the residential area around Station Street.  Byron Council in its planning policy states that it would not support splitting the central business district of the town. The applicants then went over the community's head by going to Frank Sartor who approved the development . The residents feel cheated and angry."


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