Anger over Kaufland’s Victoria go-ahead

18 March, 2019 by Andy Young

The Master Grocers Australia (MGA) has hit out at the Victorian Government’s decision to grant permission for German multinational Kaufland to build three stores in Victoria, as well as a distribution centre and a headquarters in Melbourne.

MGA CEO, Jos De Bruin, told TheShout that the Government and Kaufland have ridden roughshod over local decision-making processes without considering the impact on local, small and family businesses.

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“This decision smashes the confidence of small and family businesses throughout Victoria,” De Bruin said.

“The State Government claims to be a friend of small business, today’s decision shows that they don’t care at all what happens to these hard-working enterprises.

“This is an anti-small business decision and a multi-million-dollar gift to a foreign multinational.”

De Bruin told TheShout that the decision of the Victorian Government to grant permission for the distribution centre, also highlights that Kaufland will be given the go-ahead for further sites.

“Kaufland’s supermarkets are such that they have to target industrial land. The [proposed] site at Coolaroo is vacant industrial land, in Mornington it’s taking over a footwear factory.

“Let this be a warning to everyone: the precedent is now that any industrial land in Victoria can turn into a shopping centre, with subsequent impacts on local businesses and local amenity.”

He added that Kaufland’s model of large out-of-centre stores with huge car parks and a range of services as well as the supermarket, will impact small businesses.

“Once you have an out-of-centre location and you are 7000sqm in size with 500 car parking spaces, I don’t think that has any net community benefit at all. How can local shops compete? Or how can the consumer be provided with a convenience of choice?

“When you are talking about a 7000sqm box that sells massive amounts of everything including liquor, you have to wonder what the impact is going to be on neighbourhood shopping centres and local shopping strips. We’re particularly talking about small and private businesses here, where they have had the rug pulled out from underneath them.”

De Bruin also questioned why small, family privately-run businesses are not considered when decisions like this are made by the state government.

“We hear people talking about the engine room of the economy and the backbone of the economy and I do believe that there is an intent. But here is another example where, I believe, when Kaufland comes into Victoria, or it could be New South Wales, why isn’t the first question that is asked ‘what impact will this have on family enterprise and private business?’”

“What impact will it have on confidence and certainty to invest and innovate?”

“We need a very strong culture to drive, not protect, to drive family enterprise and private business, because that’s the diversity that we need.”

MGA said that Kaufland is also trying to drop mega-stores into Oakleigh South, Mornington and Coolaroo.

“Local small businesses will continue to fight this attempt to undermine local planning rules and we look forward to making our case to the Advisory Committee,” De Bruin said.

“At the end of the day though, these are decisions which should be made through the usual local planning processes, so the entire community can have a say.”

The three sites approved for Kaufland’s first stores in Australia are at Chirnside Park, Dandenong and Epping. The distribution centre will be located in Mickleham and the Managing Director of Kaufland Australia, Julia Kern, said the approvals would mean up to 1600 jobs would be created in the state.