Woolworths is facing increasing pressure from community leaders and Aboriginal health organisations to reconsider building a Dan Murphy’s megastore within walking distance of three dry communities in the Northern Territory. 

The proposal, which has been ongoing for five years now, seeks to open a huge Dan Murphy’s store within close proximity to the Bagot, Kulaluk and Minmarama Park communities, despite experts and community leaders continually vocalising their opposition. 

One Change.org petition against the proposal has already amassed over 100,000 signatures in opposition to the megastore.

The proposal was actually rejected last year by the Independent Liquor Commission (which was set up to help mitigate alcohol-related risks in the NT) on the basis that it wasn’t in the public interest.

“Alcohol fuelled crime and anti-social behaviour is already a major concern within the broader Darwin community,” it said in its decision.

But despite being initially knocked back by the Commission, Woolworths could still be able to build the store, thanks to a new legislation that is set to be urgently passed through the Northern Territory Parliament on Thursday.

The new legislation seeks to “cut red tape and speed up the decision making” around liquor licensing. If passed, it basically means that the decision will bypass the Independent Liquor Commission and the director of liquor licensing will have 30 days to decide whether or not to approve the proposal.

 

As you’d expect, many community leaders are displeased with the new legislation.

“It’s unbelievable that during NAIDOC Week, the NT Government is introducing legislation to weaken the very structures that it established to review liquor licences and keep communities safe,” Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory CEO John Paterson said.

As a result of the new legislation, which will likely be passed on Thursday, community leaders and experts have penned an open letter to Woolworths ahead of their annual general meeting, desperately urging them to retract the proposal in the interest of public health.

“Today we’re bringing you an open letter from community, health and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations asking you to put aside the ill-considered and harmful plan to build one of the biggest bottle shops in the country in Darwin within walking distance of three dry Aboriginal communities,” Foundation of Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) CEO Caterina Giorgi said in the letter.

“The Independent Liquor Commission rejected your application because of the harm it will cause. Will you abandon your plans to build this Dan Murphy’s?”

The Woolworths annual shareholder meeting is due to start at 10am on Thursday morning. 

Woolworths offered the following statement to Pedestrian.TV.

“We have spent a lot of time having meaningful conversations with local communities in Darwin to understand their views, listen to any concerns they may have and to address them.

For example, we have been working closely with the Elders and leaders of both the Minmarama and Kulaluk communities and we have committed to a number of measures that we believe will mitigate the risk of alcohol related harm.

These include the development of a responsible service and consumption plan to ensure that we have appropriate product ranging, pricing and promotion, a traffic management plan that will significantly improve pedestrian safety and access around the store, and a commitment to a precinct management committee to ensure the area around the proposed store is properly managed.  Both the Minmarama and Kulaluk communities have expressed their support for the application.

We will continue to engage with local communities to listen to and address any concerns they may have. If approved, the Darwin Dan Murphy’s would have the most stringent set of alcohol control policies anywhere in the country.”