Controversial plans for a Dan Murphy’s in Darwin have been scrapped after an independent review found Woolworths Group had not adequately addressed community concerns.
The development would have put an alcohol megastore less than 2km from the dry Aboriginal communities of Bagot and Minmarama.
In a joint statement, Danila Dilba Health Service, Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory, Northern Territory Council of Social Services, and the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education said Woolworths Group’s decision not to continue with the development was an acknowledgement of the harm the store would have caused.
“This is a huge community victory after years of poor consultation and lack of empathy for community concerns from one of the nation’s biggest corporations,” a spokesperson said.
Woolworths Group chair Gordon Cairns said the company wanted to ensure no community concerns had been overlooked before a final decision was made.
“The Gilbert review has made it clear that we did not do enough to live up to the best practice engagement to which we hold ourselves accountable,” he said.
“In particular, we did not do enough stakeholder engagement with a range of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and organisations.”
But the fight may not be over.
The liquor licence at the centre of the furore is owned by Woolworths Group, but advocates are concerned a demerger of the company’s drinks and hospitality arm Endeavour Group could “leave a back door open” for the development.
In their joint statement, the groups called for Woolworths to commit to retaining the liquor licence after the June demerger.
“Woolworths must now guarantee that they will retain the licence and not pass it over to Endeavour Group, their alcohol subsidiary, to try again to build this store after the planned demerger,” a spokesperson said.
“Until Woolworths confirms they will retain the liquor licence, the possibility of a Dan Murphy’s being built in the greater Darwin area will remain.”
Woolworths Group chief executive Brad Banducci said the report and Woolworths’ response would be released by mid-June.
The groups called for Woolworths to make the review public immediately to regain community trust.
“Communities should not need to fight so hard for so long ever again — this is a unique opportunity for a reset of liquor store approval processes in the Northern Territory and … across the country,” a spokesperson said.
“Woolworths must publish the Gilbert review immediately and disclose their plans to adopt its recommendations to prove that they are serious about open disclosure.”
There has been a moratorium on new takeaway liquor licences in the NT since the 2017 Riley review into alcohol policies in the Northern Territory.
The independent liquor commission refused a September 2019 application to transfer a liquor licence from a Darwin BWS to the Bagot Road location on the grounds that size difference between the stores meant the transfer would be equal to granting nine new licences.
By Sarah Smit