Size matters in supermarkets row
Unchecked growth ... A 2010 file photo of a customer leaving a Woolworths supermarket. Photo: Daniel Munoz
Small ACT supermarkets say Woolworths' dominance in the ACT is growing unchecked despite a competition policy to curb big grocery chains and allow independent operators to build their businesses and warehousing.
Since the policy was announced, Woolworths has opened at Dunlop and Bonner, has approval for Giralang and expanded at Kambah and Charnwood.
Small businessman Matthew Farrah opened a supermarket at Forde in January with partners and says his $800,000 investment is at risk because the new Bonner Woolworths is bigger than planning guidelines had indicated.
Mr Farrah, Supabarn, IGA and the KRNC Group want the ACT government to intervene in the latest dispute, one that mirrors the long-running Giralang row, which is before the Supreme Court.
Mr Farrah wants compensation because he believes Woolworths' bigger size will cause the Forde supermarket to ''struggle for ever and a day''.
Supabarn development manager James Koundouris said ongoing doubt about the size and nature of local centre supermarkets undermined the government's supermarket policy.
KRNC Group principal John Krnc said doubt over the Bonner store undermined the release of a new site at Amaroo, for which the Land Development Agency is seeking planning approval.
The smaller supermarkets say Bonner supermarket's administration area, plant room and liquor store should be within the 1500 square metre size as stipulated in the lease, but were outside of that space, effectively making the supermarket 2136 square metres.
A spokesman for Bonner shopping centre's developer Nikias Diamond, Chris Wheeler, said the liquor store and plant room did not have to be included in the supermarket's floor space area.
A spokeswoman for Woolworths said the chain was complying with its lease at Bonner and all relevant legislation.
ACT Economic Development Directorate chief David Dawes said his department was encouraging diversity among supermarkets.
''We are talking to smaller supermarket operators about seeking direct sale of land to expand. There is one application from an IGA supermarket before us at the moment.''
He said an IGA at Red Hill was keen to expand and at Dickson two more supermarkets had overwhelming community support.
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