Megastore ruffles feathers
THE developers of a proposed hardware megastore on the corner of Kepnock and Greatheads Rds have been given a six-month extension to provide information to Bundaberg Regional Council.
The proposed Masters store, a joint venture between Woolworths and giant US firm Lowes Companies, will have a floor area of 13,536sq m.
LOCAL Government Minister Paul Lucas has refused a request by a residents' group to call in the proposed Masters hardware megastore development in Kepnock.
The development is being considered by Bundaberg Regional Council, but a group of residents who live nearby say it is in the wrong place and will cause traffic problems as well as a loss of amenity for them.
Call-in powers mean the minister would take over the decision-making process from the council.
But in a letter to the residents' group's spokeswoman Mary Walsh, Mr Lucas said he had decided not to exercise his power this time.
Mrs Walsh said as a former city councillor, she could understand Mr Lucas's reluctance to take away the power from the local authority.
"This is controversial because it's in the wrong place," she said.
"If it were down the road, no one would object."
Mrs Walsh said the proposed siting of the store on the corner of Kepnock and Greatheads Rds meant the extra traffic would pose a threat to the safety of students at the nearby Kepnock High School.
She said because the developers of the store had been granted a six-month extension to provide more information to the council, the decision would be made by a new council and a new State Government.
Mrs Walsh said residents had now decided to involve state opposition members in their information campaign.
"Because there will be a new government in place when it is decided, in the interests of the school and the community we want to ensure the issues are more widely known," she said.
Council planning and development committee chairman Ross Sommerfeld said people needed to have faith in the system.
"We have expressed what areas we believe could be addressed," he said.
"Anything we can do to move forward in a positive way with the support of the residents we will do."
But Mr Lucas hit back at Mrs Walsh's bid to have the development called in.
"Councils and councillors go on long and loud about not wanting state interference in their planning processes, yet this individual wants me to take it over before it's even been considered," he said.
"On that logic there is no point in having a council at all."
Bundy's war of the superstores
TWO major DIY chains are getting ready for a battle of the brands as they gear up to take advantage of Bundaberg's future growth.
And while there has been some concern for the future of the smaller players in the industry, expert opinion is that Bundaberg is big enough for two hardware megastores.
The two chains are betting on it as they each prepare to invest millions of dollars in the Bundaberg market.
Masters, a joint venture between Woolworths and US firm Lowes Companies, has applied to Bundaberg Regional Council to build a store with a gross floor area of 13,536sq m.
And Bunnings, which has been in Bundaberg for more than nine years, has applied to increase its floor area from 8899 sq m to 13,579sq m.
The expansion area will go in behind Faircloth Cr, next to the present store.
Since it launched at the beginning of May, Masters has embarked on a national expansion program, starting in Queensland and Victoria.
It plans to have stores at 150 sites across Australia within five years.
Those plans could hit a hurdle in Bundaberg, with residents near the proposed site on the corner of Kepnock and Greatheads Rds planning a campaign against the store.
The Bunnings expansion has been rumoured for some time, and last year the NewsMail reported speculation the hardware chain was buying houses in the Faircloth Cr area.
But yesterday, despite being presented with a list of questions, Bunnings managing director John Gillam would only say the chain had been continuously improving its stores for more than a decade.
One person who is positive about the future is Cooper's Home Hardware owner Steve Cooper.
“When Bunnings came to town, we grew 40%,” he said.
“We do things differently to the way they do.”
Mr Cooper said the Home Hardware chain was already owned by Woolworths and drew its products from the same wholesalers as Masters would.
“We can be as aggressive and competitive as they can be,” he said.
Council planning and development committee chairman Ross Sommerfeld said Woolworths had been looking for a site in the Bundaberg area for about 12 months.
“The fact an application has been lodged means Woolworths has considered the potential of the area, and that's what gives me confidence,” he said.
Bundaberg and District Chamber of Commerce president Dion Taylor said the city was poised on the edge of growth in years to come.
“They're very large franchises. They're not going to spend millions and millions on a whim – they must have done their research,” he said.