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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 8 Hansard (24 August) . . Page.. 2303 ..

MS CARNELL (continuing):

Moreover, the report recommended that retail planning should have more to do with the structure of, and demand for, retail facilities than with the aggregate amount of retail floor space in the Territory.

In December last year, the Government released the BIS report to the community for comment through a series of briefings to members of the Assembly and representatives of business and community organisations and the media. Copies of the report were also made available at ACT government public libraries and shopfronts and through the Government's Internet home page.

Following the release of the report, the Chief Minister's Department undertook an extensive and comprehensive consultation program with consumers and retailers to elicit responses and views in respect of the key findings and recommendations of the BIS retail study. The consultation program was designed to understand and explore consumer views about retailing and retail space allocation; to generate information to assist the development of retail policy; and to provide validation about the assumptions contained in the BIS report. The consultation program included discussions with representatives of business and community organisations, focus group and workshop sessions, and contact through the ACT Government's home page, public libraries and government shopfronts.

The outcomes from the consultation program have been consolidated into a consumer consultation report which I have also tabled today. In summary, Mr Speaker, consumers were not particularly concerned about the quantity, range or quality of existing retail facilities but acknowledged that changes to the current structure were inevitable, given shifts in household formations, greater car ownership, longer trading hours and changing shopping habits. There was, however, widespread recognition that Canberra's retail system needs to be more competitive, innovative and flexible, particularly at group and local centres and in areas adjacent to town centre malls. Consumers believe that while government approaches to retail planning and regulation need to foster effective competition between centres they should at the same time preserve and enhance the uniqueness of Canberra's retail environment.

It is also worth noting that many people, including aged and disabled customers, indicated that they only use their local shop for convenience shopping - that is, bread, milk and newspapers. While many said that they regretted that some local shops were in decline or had closed down they were nonetheless not prepared to support them beyond convenience shopping. It is pleasing to note, however, that in fact the majority of local centres are successfully adapting to these changing consumer patterns.

The response I am tabling today, and the new retail policy directions I will now outline, have been developed with particular regard to the views of consumers and retailers. The Government will continue to ensure that retail planning focuses on making space available which encourages the provision of retail services that best meet consumer demands and optimise convenience. While it notes that there may be turnovers in retail tenancies, it will not impede business from moving in and out of the marketplace.

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