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. 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.