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RIP the suburban servo

The reign of the suburban servo is well and truly over... and we're paying for it according to the experts.

The reign of the suburban servo is well and truly over... and we're paying for it according to the experts. Photo: Katherine Griffiths

Canberra's suburban service stations are disappearing and taking competitive fuel prices with them, according to several industry groups.

Numerous independent operators have been closing down across the capital according to NRMA regional director Alan Evans, who said the entry of supermarket chains into the market meant smaller stations were no longer viable.

“The little local stations just can't match the price,” he said.

“Basically, the suburban fuel station has disappeared.”

The number of service stations has been dwindling over the past three to four years Mr Evans said, leaving only a handful of independent operators in the capital.

“We have no real competition in the ACT,” he said.

“It's a problem for the Canberran motorist.”

Ongoing research by the NRMA indicates that independent stations are pivotal in driving price competition, Mr Evans said.

Over the past week, Canberra recorded one of the most expensive average unleaded petrol prices of the capital cities. According to CommSec, the capital average price was 149.8 cents a litre, costlier than Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth.

Mr Evans said it was up to the ACT Government to step in and stop sites being released to the big chains, which were attracting customers with discounting shopper dockets.

The effects of such discounting schemes are being investigated by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, whose spokeswoman said supermarkets and other independent chains now accounted for the majority of retail sales.

The investigation, initiated last year, is still ongoing.

The scarcity of service stations has become an issue for Canberrans, as expressed by one letter writer who stated that “once, almost every suburb in Weston Creek had a petrol station but price competition has put paid to that”.

Five service stations across Weston Creek have closed down in previous years, according to a list provided by the Environment and Sustainable Development Directorate. The sites in Chapman, Duffy, Fisher, Rivett and Waramanga were listed as undergoing remediation or operating as a separate business.

It's become a big issue for the locals who end up queuing into the street most days, Weston Creek Community Council chair Tom Anderson said.

“A lot of Weston Creek residents are saying it's just unreasonable to have one petrol station for 22,000 people,” he said.

“You wouldn't find that at another place in Australia.”

The expected increase in population driven by further development in Wright would only add to the problem, listed as the third most concerning by a recent survey of residents, Mr Anderson said.

He said finding a location for an additional site was now the difficult part, as sites had closed down and were tied up in sales and remediation.

“You've got abandoned blocks, all at various stages of sale and redevelopment,” he said.

13 comments so far

  • People are so obsessed with 4c off, big deal, I got around 50 litres this morning so that's a saving of $2. Take into account the inflated prices at coles and woolies to pay for the discounted petrol, as well as the death of competition, and that is one hell of an expensive way to save $2. Once all the independents are gone and coles and woolies run the show and we are at their mercy the 4c will probably disappear anyway and all petrol will be a lot higher with coles and woolies having one of their half a cent "price wars". Oh well I hope the government got a good deal off the "developers".

    Commenter
    WotTha?????
    Date and time
    January 31, 2013, 12:02PM
    • There was never any real competition in Canberra anyway, so don't go blaming the likes of Coles and Woolies. The real problem, like many things in Canberra is the 1960's ideals of town planning where ever suburb had a supermarket and petrol station, group centres offered the same and some again and town centres even more. It may have looked good in the 60's and 70's, but not for the modern way we live and work. The closure of traditional suburban servo's and shopping centres is a reflection of the way that WE THE CONSUMER have changed our way of life over the past 20 years in particular. And with every change smaller operators find ways to adapt and others shut up shop.

      It's been no different throughout the whole of the 20th Century and the first part of the 21st. Shops, services etc adapt, close to meet the changing needs of US.

      Commenter
      Jimmy
      Location
      CBR
      Date and time
      January 31, 2013, 1:39PM
  • ....but this appears to be only half of the argument. If consumer population base and therefore lack of competitive choice is the reason for Canberra's higher prices, how come I can sometimes drive to Yass and get cheaper prices there?

    Commenter
    Liberte
    Location
    Canberra
    Date and time
    January 31, 2013, 12:14PM
    • I wonder at the mental apptitude of people that make a point of commenting how they drove from Fraser to Calwell and saved another 2 cents a litre, give me a break.

      Commenter
      Nitro Gangster
      Location
      ACT
      Date and time
      January 31, 2013, 12:29PM
      • The headline is missing a few letters...'RIPPED by the suburban servo' is more to the point & why they are no longer around.

        Commenter
        dusty
        Date and time
        January 31, 2013, 12:34PM
        • Anyone remember this article when the discussion on Coles/Woolies taking control happened

          "The entry of the chains to petrol retailing has increased competition and generated consumer benefit."

          http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/09/15/1063624980266.html

          Commenter
          Birdman.
          Date and time
          January 31, 2013, 12:36PM
          • Could they be dissapoearing as they are so B hard to find? If you could find servos on main roads I am sure they would be surviving better, instead you drive into one suburban shopping centre after another looking for these mysterious things and then give up and go to the supermarket ones where you know you are paying more even with the "discount"

            Commenter
            Jane2
            Date and time
            January 31, 2013, 1:05PM
            • It worries me the steam of articles that we are charged 10 to 17c more than other cities per litre.

              Why?

              Commenter
              Outraged of Palmerston
              Date and time
              January 31, 2013, 1:18PM
              • Isn't it kind of... you know... the publics fault for not supporting these places to begin with?

                Commenter
                Hospes
                Date and time
                January 31, 2013, 2:32PM
                • Hospes is right. I bought my petrol exclusively from the local servo in Higgins right up until it closed its doors. Now I'm forced to go to the chains...

                  Commenter
                  Bronte
                  Location
                  Belconnen
                  Date and time
                  January 31, 2013, 4:50PM

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