THE latest shots were fired yesterday in the battle against a Woolworths store in Mullumbimby.
They were aimed at where it is likely to hurt the company most – its profit and reputation.
Mullumbimby Forum’s renewed campaign against the ‘threat’ the retailer poses to the town consists of letters to senior company officials and its 400,000 shareholders, and a half-page advert in The Australian Financial Review.
The letters contain searching questions, such as whether it would be in the best interests of the shareholders if the ‘might’ of Woolworths prevailed over the ‘right’ of local opinion.
“We ask that you consider potential damage to reputation associated with protracted disputation with the Mullumbimby community, especially given the likely very small financial gains from establishing a store in Mullumbimby,” one letter asks.
“Are such localised conflicts counter-productive, focusing unhelpful attention on Woolies’ market dominance?”
Tricia Shantz, the group’s secretary, said the campaign was ‘holding a mirror up to Woolworths, in the light of its claims that it has a high level of social responsibility’.
“We are asking, ‘What if a community doesn’t want you? Where does your responsibility lie then?’,” Ms Shantz said.
The Forum says it is defending the ‘identity of a unique community’.
Another 1000 or so letters have been written by Mullum residents to the Woolworths chairman, James Strong, and company secretary, Peter Horton, expressing opposition to the supermarket.
The company’s media manager, Benedict Brook, said in a statement: “The site in Mullumbimby was already approved for a supermarket when Woolworths purchased it and the reality is, if we don’t build it then another supermarket operator is likely to.
“We know there is significant demand for a new supermarket as currently people have to drive to Ocean Shores or Brunswick Heads to do the bulk of their shopping. We are moving forward with this new store because we know there is support for it within the Mullum community.”
However, Byron mayor Jan Barham said the chain of events leading to the Land and Environment Court’s approval of the project had not been the ‘healthiest of processes’.
She said the decision – and Byron’s rights – had been taken out of council’s hands by the State Government.
Cr Barham said it was ‘very unlikely’ that the council would appeal against the court’s decision.
“We would be irresponsible to follow that path now,” she said.
“Up to this point we have been absolutely correct to maintain the action. We def- end our planning rules for a good reason.”