The NSW government announced last week that it would enter into confidential commercial negotiations to sell prime public land on the Port Macquarie foreshore to Woolworths, despite objections from Port Macquarie Hastings Council and the community who preferred that the site remain in public hands.

Woolworths wanted a car park on Crown land overlooking the Hastings River foreshore so it could extend its Food For Less supermarket into a larger Woolworths supermarket development,

The Mayor of Port Macquarie Hastings Council, Peter Besseling said that the government had kept the community at arm’s length to get the outcome they wanted, which is a direct sale to Woolworths.

NSW Shadow Minister for Lands and Water Mick Veitch said that the Baird Government needs to explain why it felt the need to ram through this result.

“I am very concerned about the way the Baird Government is managing Crown lands in NSW, where local people have been continually sidelined from full and proper empowerment to make decisions about land that, ultimately, belongs to the community,” Mr Veitch said.

The NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) announced on June 29 that Woolworths was the preferred candidate from the Expression of Interest process for the Plaza car park sale at Port Macquarie

“Woolworths was assessed as the preferred candidate in accordance with the terms of the expression of interest for the sale of the site that was offered to the market in early March this year,” DPI acting director strategic projects Phil Fogarty said.

In April, Master Grocers Australia/Liquor Retailers Australia CEO Jos De Bruin said there was concern for the “calling in of projects” by State Governments for big supermarket developments when they cannot get their way through Council approvals and rezoning, that results in smaller supermarket and convenience operators being forced out.

Mr De Bruin said that a 2015 MGA consumer survey had shown that the public is critical of the role of Coles and Woolworths in crowding out other retailers.

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