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Maple Street Co-op News Articles of Particular Relevance

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From Maple Street Coop News, December 2004 / January 2005 issue
Published by Maple Street Co-op, 37 Maple Street, Maleny Qld 4552
Tel 5494 2088, email maplest.coop@serv.net.au
website http://www.maplestreetco-op.com.au

Maleny's Ongoing Supermarket Saga

by Lori Sturtz

It seems that Santa isn’t the only one coming to town.  Woolworths and Cornerstone Properties are forging ahead and don’t care who’s been naughty or nice.  They don’t even care if they are wanted or not.  They really don’t care about anything other than profit and market share.

Cornerstone Properties has come up with a new building design for a Woolworths supermarket that it thinks is all that’s needed to get the community on side.  What about the traffic issues, the economic consequences, the impact on the town’s character and the effect on Obi Obi Creek’s ecology?  Somehow, I don’t think a new design will solve these community concerns.

Since our last edition, the Queensland Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy announced on 21 October that it will not appeal the Planning and Environment Court’s 14 September judgement on the Obi Obi Creek’s boundaries.

Meanwhile, Andrew Harper, Managing Director of Cornerstone Properties, told the Commercial Property Gazette of 13 October 2004 that the company has not yet been able to find a builder.  'They won’t touch it,' he said.  'Whoever takes the job on might have to go through protesters.'  Referring to the redesign, he said:  'The expense is nauseating.  But it might get some of the opponents of the project on side, and some of those will be customers in the future.'

Susie Duncan of Maleny Voice told the Range News (11 November):  'The redesign is laughable.  No one would be convinced that this seriously addresses environmental concerns, and it certainly doesn’t address the traffic problems associated with the site or the economic damage such a construction would cause in Maleny.'  Local zoologist Dr Les Hall has been mapping the platypus burrows at the site and told TRN the new design won’t protect these creatures.

The revised plan presented to Caloundra City Council was approved at its 11 November meeting.  Division 1 Councillor Dick Newman said he did not support the revised plan because it doesn’t meet the provisions of the DCP or City Plan nor residents’ concerns about increased traffic, and it is not consistent with Council’s draft economic policy.  He said the other councillors voted for it because they thought that if they did not, this would be taken as support for the old plan.  Council now has the opportunity to negotiate with Cornerstone and the Planning and Environment Court for minor improvements to the revised plan -- but the community does not.

And so the battle continues.  On 17 November, a group of Maleny campaigners took the protest to Woolworths supermarkets in Buderim and Nambour and received positive support from many of the people they talked with outside.  Councillor Zrinka Johnston, Deputy Mayor of Maroochy Shire Council, told WIN TV that the Council had overlooked the potential traffic hazard in Buderim when it gave approval for that Woolies supermarket and admitted that the Council and Buderim have an ongoing problem.

And now Palmwoods and Woombye can look forward to similar problems, as Woolworths is allegedly eyeing off these small hinterland townships.

Maleny activists at the Woolies AGM

To coincide with Woolworths’ AGM on Friday 26 November, nine Maleny protesters travelled to Sydney to represent community concerns.  Michael Berry and Joe Colreavy, who flew down separately, held proxy votes which allowed them into the meeting. 

Upon arrival in Sydney, Graham Earle (media man on a mission) and Daniel Jones (Bunya man extraordinaire) spoke live to Channel Nine’s Today show, with fellow protesters bearing signs in the background.

After this segment, commentator Alan Jones spoke about Maleny’s protest during his Today show editorial on competition policy and lack of government concern about the 76% grocery market share of Coles and Woolworths.  He quoted Graham Earle’s concerns that 'Woolies' store expansion is creating problems in regional and metropolitan Australia, and shareholders in the company need to be aware that a consumer backlash could eventually impact on the share price?.

At the AGM, Michael Berry was able to ask questions about why Woolworths is 'pursuing growth at any cost' and going ahead despite Maleny residents’ concerns about traffic hazards, environmental impacts and effects on local businesses.  He received a round of applause after outlining the protesters' position to CEO Roger Corbett. 

Joe Colreavy spoke to the meeting about the environmental impact a Woolies would have on the Obi Obi site, but he was threatened with eviction a few times as he held protest signs aloft with a walking stick (which he was able to slip past security with a briefcase full of signs).  When a sign was confiscated, he would bring out another.  Joe also received some generous applause from shareholders. 

Graham Earle, Jon Woodlands, Jan Duffield, Rod Castle, Daniel Jones, Wayne Reid and Matthew Smith stayed outside, handing out information and holding placards proclaiming 'Woolworths Kills Small Business' and 'Maleny says NO Woolworths'. 

Graham told me that the highlight for him was when a group of about 30 high-schoolers started chanting 'Woolies Sucks!', with no prompting from the Maleny campaigners at all.  They were there on a school trip, and after hearing about the plight of the poor platypuses they formed a circle, threw fists in the air and began their chant! 

Supermarkets’ manipulative marketing

Huge supermarket chains like Woolworths claim to support local businesses, yet they make it difficult for independent shops and suppliers to compete with their prices.  They rarely stock local products or support local farmers.  The Woolworths vendor’s kit is 34 pages long and contains all kinds of rigid specifications, practices and requirements of suppliers.  It even specifies what typeface is allowed to be used on products.  (Not so at Maple Street Co-op!)  Also, if the producer/supplier cannot deliver the required quantity of items under a contract, Woolies may refuse to accept the entire order. 

Supermarkets target children by putting the unhealthy, 'fun' foods kids like at their eye level.  Adults are more likely to buy processed foods that their children pester them to buy than something they see themselves.  Parents often succumb to the pester factor, which is why supermarkets surround the checkouts with tempting sweets.  'Pester power' works best on tired, stressed people when they are busy packing and paying.

The supermarket giants use manipulative marketing tactics such as loyalty schemes to get people to buy more then they need or want.  Woolworths has 'Ezy Rewards' and Coles has 'Fly Buys'.  These are very expensive ways for the consumer (no longer the customer) to get 'free' goods.

In the UK, about 48% of people who join these schemes increase their supermarket spending.  It seems we just cannot resist a bargain!  There is also a far sinister element to these loyalty schemes.  Information about you can be gathered and stored.  They know who you are, what you like, when and where you shop and what you buy.  They may even know more about you than the government does!

This information can be used in different ways, as The Ecologist (September 2004) points out.  A US grocery chain gave the loyalty card records of 9/11 hijackers to the FBI and then created a profile of the ideal terrorist shopper!  They were then able to compare this profile with details of all their other shoppers to see if any were potential terrorists.  A woman in the UK bought some flowers with her card and two days later found the police at her door.  Someone monitoring the supermarket CCTV had seen her put her scarf in her bag and thought she was shoplifting.  They were able to trace her through her loyalty card account.  She was finally cleared after the police reviewed the store’s CCTV footage and saw that she had entered the shop with the scarf.  Think about all this the next time you are asked if you have a loyalty card.

Maleny’s campaign re-ignited

On his return from Sydney, Jon Woodlands told me he felt the mission has re-invigorated Maleny’s campaign, having attracted local, statewide and national media coverage.  The ABC’s Triple J and Steve Austin on Brisbane 612 radio interviewed him, and the newspapers, most of the TV stations and many other radio programs covered the event.  Greenpeace was also outside the AGM to object to Woolworths being the biggest buyer of Inghams GE-fed chickens, while anti-tobacco activists called for Woolies to remove tobacco products from overt display.

While the campaigners were in Sydney, Gaby Luft got together a group of local protesters for a colourful vigil at the Obi Obi site in support of their action.

To top it off, in response to Woolworths Ltd’s full-page newspaper ads on Monday 29 November, declaring that 'Commitment to the community has always been part of our culture', Graham Earle organised a media event with protesters setting fire to the ads as a comment on Woolies’ kneejerk response to protesters’ concerns and a symbol of our re-ignited opposition to the supermarket chain’s plans.  Let’s not forget that at the Cornerstone/Woolies meeting held in Maleny in December 2003, Peter Thomas (Woolworths GM, Property) said each Woolworths store has a budget of (only) $50 per week to give to community causes!

Gold stars to 'the Sydney Nine', Maleny Voice, the Platypus Group and everyone who’s been part of this struggle.  There are too many of you to mention, but you know who you are.  So does Roger Corbett!

From Maple Street Co-op News,
October/November 2004
Published by Maple Street Co-op,
37 Maple Street, Maleny, Qld 4552,
tel 07 5494 2088, email maplest.coop@serv.net.au
website http://www.maplestreetco-op.com.au

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