It’s the stand by a small community against a supermarket giant that just gets bigger every day.
An unpopular bid by Woolworths to erect Queensland’s northernmost set of traffic lights in the town of Mossman has hit another speed bump after the federal Member for Leichhardt, Warren Entsch, said he would back the community in his electorate if they wanted to remain red light free-zone.
The entry of Mr Entsch, a key Liberal Party figure, into the increasingly high profile standoff between the small community and one of Australia’s biggest supermarket chains is a strong sign that elected representatives are now acutely wary of the potential to lose political skin they are seen to back big business over local interests.
“I’m quite happy to accept whatever the community opinion is,” Mr Entsch told Government News.
“The community has rallied and there has been quite a significant objection by the council, by the community [and] the mayor. The new mayor is representing the community, she has put up a compromise and has gone to the local state member as she should.”
That support will be music to the ears of Mossman Mayor Julia Leu, who has taken on the task of trying to thrash out a locally acceptable compromise between Mossman’s community, Woolworths and the Queensland Government’s Department of Transport.
Mossman’s battle to persuade Woolworths to change its insistence on traffic lights to a less prominent roundabout has become emblematic of the struggle by many regional communities that are trying to preserve the small country town feel and character of their streets including eschewing traffic lights and parking meters
Asked if Woolworths could improve its community consultation and engagement, Mr Entsch responded that “we can all improve.”
In terms of the roundabout compromise floated by council, Mr Entsch gently ratcheted up the pressure on Brisbane and said he “would have thought that the state government would grab that opportunity.”
However the Member for Leichhardt wasted no time in slamming fellow federal Queenslander and prominent critic of Woolworths’ tactics, Bob Katter, for entering into a local debate that was simply not in his electorate.
Mr Katter has accused Woolworths of using the visual prominence of its developments dominate main streets and send a message to communities that “we’re here and we’ve taken over.”
Mr Entsch was having none of it.
“For Katter to get on his bloody broken down old speckled grey because the white shine has gone off it a long time ago and come in there with his underpants on the outside and his cape to save Mossman community, it’s just got no credibility,” Mr Entsch said.
Mr Entsch said Mr Katter was just using the issue of Mossman’s traffic lights as an opportunity to attack the company, adding that Mr Katter had not objected to the expansion of Woolworth’s Mossman site.
“There was a Woolies there already, they’ve expanded it,” Mr Entsch said. “It shows that it was obviously well enough patronised that they needed to grow it bigger. This is not Woollies coming into a greenfields site.”
Woolworths has been asked for a comment on the Mossman issue but so far none has been forthcoming.
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