Why I Don’t Shop There!
By Garry Claridge
Just before 7am on Wednesday the 14th April 2004, I received a phone call from a distressed woman. She urgently declared “… they are cutting down all of the trees”. Then I realised that she was referring to the proposed Woolworths site on the bank of Obi Obi Creek, and that she was above me on the pre-organised phone-tree.
This explained the sounds of chainsaws and big machines I could hear – I lived in Fig Street which is about three hundred metres from the Obi Obi site. I then rushed over to the site – not prepared for what was happening – I was shocked by the destruction taking place on the bank of the Obi Obi.
Then, with dismay, I spotted the name written across the yellow fluorescent vests of the destroyers – DEEN BROTHERS (notorious family firm contracted to knock down historic buildings around Brisbane during the Bjelke-Petersen era) – my heart sank even further, as to many Queenslanders of my era this is a notorious name. How could we be betrayed like this, how could we be stained by the same destructive forces as those that levelled the Bellevue Hotel and Cloudland in covert early-morning raids. How? How come Joh’s storm-troopers are in our town, in our community! All in the name of Woolworths expansion in and saturation of our region.
Many locals gathered at the carnage site during the morning – so much that the police presence was increased from the overwhelmed, initially smug, five to about 80; including a bus load of “crowd control” police arriving from Brisbane. Distressed local people were running onto the site hoping to save the remaining large trees – especially the huge hoop pines and the last bunya tree in Bunya street.
Of significant concern to me is that half of this land was declared “Open Space” in the Caloundra City Council’s Development Control Plan. It was included in that plan after considerable processes of community consultation. It was considered an important link for the Obi Obi riparian zone.
The Caloundra City Council decided, in 2000, to defer gazetting the Development Control Plan until other items could be accumulated to reduce the total process cost; we naively believed this. While still waiting, two years later, the land was sold to Woolworth’s developers. The sale occurred one day before the Council made their offer for the land – what an unfortunate coincidence!
So, this episode of political and corporate dodgyness, along with my following observations, reinforce my resolve to avoid this corporate money-box:
- The building and business are not locally owned;
- The location of the building, in the riparian zone of the Obi Obi, is inappropriate;
- Their food purchasing methods can be unfair to producers;
- Distribution operations are overly polluting and do not support local producers; and
- Management incomes are unjustly disproportionate to workers wages.
During that April day 10 years ago, I witnessed great acts of courage – people climbing on machines, people standing their ground in the “Open Space”, and people climbing tall trees while chainsaws were recklessly and hurriedly destroying all around them. I also saw our community working together to face an external threat – this was inspiring then and still inspires me today.
My nightmares continued for months – possibly years. They recalled images and sounds of chainsaws singing their ugly songs being wielded by Mordor like orcs. All, while friends cry and riparian habitats scream. Helplessness!
I won’t shop there.