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Widespread support for centre

Tuesday, 18th August, 2009

By Stefan Delatovic

The fate of the city's proposed new shopping centre will be decided at an extraordinary meeting of City Council tomorrow.

Leasecorp has been working on a development application for the centre, to be built on the old Globe Timber Mill site, since August 2007.

At tomorrow's meeting Council's Administrator Ken Boyle will consider a report which recommends that the project be refused.

Informed by a number of independent, external consultants including Bankstown City Council, the report says the centre would have an "unacceptable economic impact on established retail traders and spending patterns in Broken Hill", is unsuitable due to its distance from the CBD, and would not be in the public interest.

Despite this, the project has attracted widespread support from the city's business community and union movement.

President of Business Broken Hill, John Groenendijk, said that the city's business owners believed it would be a positive development for the city.

"I believe, from what I've heard, that the vast majority of Broken Hill seems to be in favour of it," he said.

Mr Groenendijk said it would create jobs and foster competition amongst other retailers, which was good for the consumer.

"This will also bring a better chance for locals to shop locally, rather than taking their business to Mildura, Adelaide, or even the internet," he said.

"The main detractors seem to be saying there are only so many dollars in the pie, but I think the pie is going to grow. I believe this will grow the retail market."

If the application was turned down now, Mr Groenendijk said, it would send a bad message to potential investors.

"We need to start setting ourselves up for the future," he said.

"The city needs to be seen as a vibrant, modern community.

"If this doesn't go ahead, we may have trouble attracting investors in the future."

Mr Groenendijk said he understood Council's obligation to investigate the issues, but that they ultimately had to listen to the public and business leaders.

"If this doesn't go ahead I think there will be major implications," he said.

Director of Leasecorp, Steve Palyga, said the company would be putting those points forward at tomorrow's meeting.

"We believe our development is extremely important to Broken Hill," he said, flagging the delivery of hundreds of permanent jobs, youth employment, economic activity, retail competition, more choice, building and construction activity, improvement of the streetscape, an increase in civic pride and an increase in Council's rate base as some of the things in the project's favour.

"We believe that our proposal has enormous support from Broken Hill people, not just Business Broken Hill and the city's business leaders, but also the BIC and people in the street.

"We refined this proposal in consultation with Council's staff and advisors to the point where one core issue remains, but we don't accept that is a problem."

Mr Palyga said that the new centre's main competitors would be Big W and Woolworths, while the likely shift in existing specialty store turnover would be around four per cent - well within acceptable limits.

"If this doesn't go ahead, we may have trouble attracting investors in the future."

Mr Groenendijk said he understood Council's obligation to investigate the issues, but that they ultimately had to listen to the public and business leaders.

"If this doesn't go ahead I think there will be major implications," he said.

Director of Leasecorp, Steve Palyga, said the company would be putting those points forward at tomorrow's meeting.

"We believe our development is extremely important to Broken Hill," he said, flagging the delivery of hundreds of permanent jobs, youth employment, economic activity, retail competition, more choice, building and construction activity, improvement of the streetscape, an increase in civic pride and an increase in Council's rate base as some of the things in the project's favour.

"We believe that our proposal has enormous support from Broken Hill people, not just Business Broken Hill and the city's business leaders, but also the BIC and people in the street.

"We refined this proposal in consultation with Council's staff and advisors to the point where one core issue remains, but we don't accept that is a problem."

Mr Palyga said that the new centre's main competitors would be Big W and Woolworths, while the likely shift in existing specialty store turnover would be around four per cent - well within acceptable limits.

"The truth is that 80 per cent of the shift will be beneficial, because it is from supermarkets and discount department stores. In other words, there will be real competition to the Woolworths and Big W and the stranglehold they have on supermarket and discount department store shopping in the city," he said.

No-one from the local Woolworths or Big W stores was available for comment yesterday.

Mr Palyga said Leasecorp had millions of dollars invested in Broken Hill.

"We are one of the city's largest ratepayers, we already support St Pat's and quite a number of local businesses, and if we get sent packing, that sends an incredibly negative message to other developers and investors who might be looking to come to the city," he said.

President of the BIC, Danny O'Connor, said the application had to be approved for the sake of jobs.

"It'll be an encouragement for the town," he said. "The city needs to be going forward, not backward.

"If this is turned down it sends a bad message that could be fatal to Broken Hill - that we don't want any new business coming to town.

"It's Leasecorp fronting the money. If it fails they will bear the brunt. Council has nothing to lose.

"But we have high unemployment and Argent Street would benefit from the money that's generated from new jobs."

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