Katoomba Bunnings disharmony

Local small businesses and environmental groups have lined up to oppose a planned Bunnings hardware store in Katoomba, arguing that it will kill off family traders and potentially damage the Leura Creek water catchment.

One business owner, Till Weber of Weber’s Nursery at Blackheath, said he had already closed his Katoomba nursery because of the Woolworths development on Parke Street.

“My other business, Katoomba Garden Centre, closed as a result of the Woolworths building in Katoomba because customers could no longer access it. I can’t afford to lose another business at the hands of the retail giants,” he said.

“It is another case of market domination by Coles and Woolworths fighting each other – the problem is they kill small business in the process.  There is no need for another major hardware store in the Mountains.”

Bunnings has applied to build a $5 million store with an outdoor nursery on vacant land in Megalong Street. It is close to a semi-industrial area featuring tile, kitchen, lighting, glass and other small businesses and is also across the road from an existing Home Hardware store.

But businesses in the Upper Mountains are concerned that it will drive smaller owners to the wall.

Scott Murray owns Leura Lights, which is directly opposite the proposed development.

“Coles and Woolworths don’t care about the town,” he said. “All they care about is squeezing family-owned businesses out of business. Having them [Bunnings] 20 metres from an existing Home Hardware is stupid.”

There are also environmental concerns, particularly as Leura Falls Creek crosses the development site.

The Leura Falls Creek catchment working party, made up of volunteers who have worked in the area for years, fear the run-off from the site would damage the water quality of the creek. They were not opposed to Bunnings per se, they said, but to development on that specific piece of land.

“It isn’t the ‘what’ for us, it’s the ‘where’,” said Jenny Hill from the working party.

“This is the lowest part of that area, it’s like a basin. All of that creek will take everything that gets done on that site.”

She said the creek flows into Leura Cascades and then into Warragamba Dam.

Opponents to the development also include Metcash, which supplies independent retailers, such as Mitre 10.

The company’s manager of media relations, Vicki Wright, said she had spoken to many small businesses in the area.

“The Bunnings development poses a significant threat to their livelihoods and destroys the unique atmosphere of the Blue Mountains as picturesque and quintessentially community focused,” she said.

“There is no need for another chain store development in the Mountains. It won’t bring additional savings for consumers, It will cause the demise of small business, underemployment and destruction of the amenity of the area.”

More than a dozen submissions have been received by council, with only two in support. Both are from neighbouring businesses who wrote that they would welcome the opportunity for more employment in the area and a positive use of a prime piece of land.

Submissions on the proposed development are now closed and council will consider the application.

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