Ballina faces wait for cheaper petrol

By DAWN COHEN

THE BIG W supermarket chain promises it will lower Ballina's high petrol prices ? but the relief won't arrive until next year.

Petrol is more expensive in Ballina than anywhere else on the Northern Rivers.

Residents fork out an estimated $200 more on petrol each year than their neighbours in Lismore or Casino, based on current prices, which can be up to 10c-a-litre more expensive.

Cr Sharon Cadwallader said this was the usual practice for the coastal town.

"Ballina residents are sick of being held to ransom when down the road it is so much cheaper," she said.

A Petrol Plus Service Station and a Big W supermar- ket, planned for the Kerr Street Tinkerbell development, should be operating by 2006.

A supermarket sales docket for $30 or more will get four cents off the price of a litre of petrol at the service station.

"We will match or better the competition's prices," promised Claire Buchanan, spokesperson for Big W.

"The discount will be on top of that."

However, in the long-term, the arrival of the supermarket giant could increase the price, according to Ron Bowden, CEO for the Service Station Association.

"There is an initial honeymoon period when Big W and Coles discount petrol prices," he said. "But once they dominate the market, prices go up. "Petrol in Tamworth today is higher than anywhere else in Australia at 103.9, compared with 92.9 in Sydney.

"Coles and Big W control four of about 10 petrol stations in Tamworth."

Big W, in alliance with Caltex, and Coles, partnered with Shell, own 14 per cent of service stations in Australia.

After less than two years' operation, 50 per cent of petrol is sold by the two partnerships.



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