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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 6 Hansard (22 May) . . Page.. 1574 ..


MS HORODNY (10.33): I move:

That this Assembly calls on the Government to enforce a moratorium on the expansion of retail space in town centres in the ACT (excluding Gungahlin) for five years.

The purpose of this motion today is to put a stop to the increase in concentration of our retail market in four major town centres. I want to begin by posing the questions: Do we really want our children to grow up in a world that is dominated by national and multinational chains? Do we want to be able to walk down to our local shops in 10 years' time and buy a loaf of bread? Do we want a vibrant and sustainable local economy?

Canberra is not like other capital cities. This is a planned city. Canberra was planned with a retail hierarchy of three levels of shopping centres; that is, the town centres, the group centres and the local centres. This was initiated nearly 30 years ago, after extensive research into shopping demands and how best these could be met within Canberra's overall planning structure. The objective was to ensure that accessibility to shopping facilities could be maximised, at the same time ensuring the economic viability of different types of shops. Local shopping centres were meant to provide for most day-to-day shopping needs, with easy access for residents; group centres served the greater shopping needs of four or so suburbs; while town centres were meant to provide those types of shops which served a whole town and which were for the big items like clothes, household items, et cetera - things that might be bought only once a month or so.

Over time this plan has been tipped upside down by developments in the retail market, consolidation of market power and many other factors. Our town centres are now drawing in regular shoppers for everything from basic grocery items to luxury goods. Neighbourhood shops are now visited only occasionally, for emergency items. The focus on the neighbourhood has been eroded. As a consequence, many shopping centres are in serious danger. There have been 12 supermarket closures in recent years, and at least 20 others are under threat. In fact, in the last two weeks another two local supermarkets closed. They were the ones in Gowrie and Dickson. The closure of local supermarkets threatens the other stores in local shopping centres.

The Greens acknowledge that some of the factors are beyond our control. There are also other factors outside of the retail market; for example, the closure of neighbourhood schools has a devastating effect on adjacent shops. When speaking to local shopowners at the Charnwood shops, I was told that the closure of the Charnwood school has had a marked effect on trade in the Charnwood shopping centre. However, we do believe that we should take whatever action we can to make sure that neighbourhood centres survive. This includes the sort of action that we are proposing today. Of course, it is not the only action that we need to take. We also need to support proactive measures, such as the heart and soul program and the precinct programs, to revitalise local shopping centres. But these programs themselves will not work if the town centres keep expanding and dominating the retail market.

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