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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 14 Hansard (11 December) . . Page.. 4727 ..

MS HORODNY (continuing):

The Minister says that the existing supermarket in Manuka is too small for its customer base and that this development would provide the opportunity to expand Manuka's car parking facilities and to do up Palmerston Lane. It is quite clear to us, however, that the key beneficiary of this proposal is Woolworths and that there are many small retailers and local residents who stand to lose considerably from this proposal. The Minister confirmed in this Assembly in June and in the budget Estimates Committee hearings that the Government had received a request from Woolworths at Manuka to be able to locate their supermarket across the road and to expand its size. I hope Mr Humphries is paying close attention.

Mr Humphries: Absolutely.

MS HORODNY: He stated, however, that the usual procedure is to:

... put the matter out to an expression of interest so that we can see what other interest there is in the marketplace ... Obviously nobody has a right to an expansion by themselves.

It is pretty clear from the call for expressions of interest document that it would be hard for any other retailer to compete equally with Woolworths for the site. The key point in the prospectus is that there must be a supermarket in the development and that it must be a minimum of 3,500 square metres. The prospectus is quite flexible about what other uses the site could be put to and quite sensibly sets upper limits on the floor area of these uses, because obviously there must be restrictions on the overall size of the development relative to the size of the block. Why, however, is there a minimum size specified for the supermarket? Surely a Liberal government would want to leave decisions on whether a supermarket is the best use of the site, and the size of that supermarket, to the market itself to determine.

By requiring a supermarket in the development and setting this minimum floor size, which would make this supermarket one of the largest in Canberra, the Government has restricted smaller locally-based retailers and other potential land users from competing for this site. However, even other large supermarket chains would not be confident about bidding for this site. If a supermarket other than Woolworths were established on this site and the existing Woolworths store remained, Manuka would have a total supermarket area of over 5,000 square metres, which is way over what could be supported by the population in that area. Woolworths, being the smaller and older supermarket, most likely would be forced to close, which is absolutely the opposite of what it wanted to achieve in the first place, which was a bigger supermarket. I am sure that Woolworths would not allow this to happen. I note that, while there have been five expressions of interest in the site, Woolworths has put in three different options within its expression of interest, so they are certainly covering their bets. Only one other expression of interest has identified a particular supermarket, which was Coles. The other three expressions of interest do not specify which company would take up the supermarket space, so presumably they either have someone lined up privately or would have to negotiate with a large retailer like Woolworths if they got the site. Either way, Woolworths has a very high probability of being chosen, and then the question arises of what happens to the existing Woolworths site.

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