A mock Woolworths is torched at an early protest at Mullumbimby.
A mock Woolworths is torched at an early protest at Mullumbimby.

Start close on Mullumbimby Woolies

Work on the controversial Woolworths supermarket is set to start within weeks.

A company spokesman said on Tuesday final building details were being sorted out and there would be a start ‘reasonably soon’.

Those who moved to ‘the biggest little town in Australia’ for the unique flavour of a dinky-di Aussie country town will be upset, while those in the ‘progress at any price’ camp will be elated.

Byron Council said no, many residents said no, and both Mullumbimby Community Action Network (MCAN) and Mullumbimby Forum put up a spirited defence, holding up Woolworths for over a year, but it seemed that there was no stopping the corporate giant once it had spied the growth area that is Mullumbimby.

According to MCAN co-ordinator Deborah Lilley, it could be ‘just a matter of weeks’ before construction begins, although she says Woolworths still have to agree to pay their dues to the council.

Ms Lilley said Woolworths had asked the council for a release from their Section 94 (developer) contributions to resurface part of Station Street with bitumen sealing, upgrade the drainage channel and footpaths.

She said the council had said no to the request for a discount and had written to the Department of Planning to ensure Woolworths paid the amount stipulated in the approval, but as yet no response had been received from the department.

“It may be that Woolworths cannot start building their supermarket until they have paid their Section 94 contributions in order to get a construction certificate,” said Ms Lilley.

“Given their dispute with Byron Shire Council, Woolworths are likely to seek a building certificate from a private certifier.

“And whether or not Byron Shire Council will pursue the half-million-dollar charges which were a result of Woolworths contesting council’s rejection of their on-site sewage system at the Land and Environment Court remains to be seen.

“The court process allowed Woolworths the opportunity to submit different plans from those that were rejected and it took four months and two deferred hearings for Woolworths to come up with those plans, hence the high legal costs, for which they are responsible.

“However, obtaining these costs from Woolworths will require yet another court case.”

But although for some this is the end of the road for preserving the small-town feel of Mullumbimby, opponents feel it is not the end of the road for hope.

“I feel sad that the men in suits have been so co-operative with Woolworths,” said Deborah, “and the outcome is that we suffer locally.

“But I am so excited that our local farmers have risen to the challenge, and we now have a wonderful, sustainable and exciting alternative to the mega-retailer’s globalised glossy food outlet in the newly opened Mullumbimby Farmers Market.”

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