Woolworths Group has walked away from its controversial and long-running battle to open a Dan Murphy’s store in Darwin.
In December, Woolworths Group announced the commissioning of an independent panel to consider issues associated with the development of a Dan Murphy’s at Darwin Airport.
During the review, the panel received feedback from a large number of stakeholders, including during meetings in Darwin in March. Following completion of the review this week, the panel’s Chair, Danny Gilbert AM, briefed the Woolworths Group Board and Management on its findings and recommendations, including that the development should not go ahead.
Woolworths said the Terms of Reference for the review were broad, with a focus on the adequacy of stakeholder engagement related to the development, and the extent to which stakeholder concerns were sufficiently addressed.
The Board has supported Management’s recommendation not to proceed with the development of the Dan Murphy’s at Darwin Airport.
The Gilbert Review has, in addition to the core areas of focus, made a series of recommendations about a wide range of related matters, including Woolworths Group’s internal and external processes and procedures. The Board has requested Management to prepare a response addressing the recommendations. The Board intends to release both the Gilbert Review and Woolworths Group’s response, no later than mid June.
Woolworths Group Chairman Gordon Cairns said: “The Board wishes to express its appreciation for the comprehensive work of the Independent Panel.
“Establishing the Independent Panel, led by eminent Australian lawyer Danny Gilbert AM, reflected a desire by the Board and Management to ensure that the full breadth of community stakeholders had been consulted and that no community concerns had been overlooked before a final decision was made on the future of the project.
“The Gilbert Review has made it clear that we did not do enough in this community to live up to the best practice engagement to which we hold ourselves accountable. In particular, we did not do enough stakeholder engagement with a range of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and organisations.”
Woolworths Group CEO, Brad Banducci added: “The insights and recommendations within the Gilbert Review will serve to strengthen Woolworths Group and Endeavour Group’s future stakeholder engagement. More importantly, it will create a platform for working better together in our engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
“Given the Gilbert Review’s breadth and the number of recommendations made, we will be providing a response by mid June.”
Chief Minister Michael Gunner told the NT News: “We realise that there are passionate views for and against this project.
“We respect the decision of the NT Liquor Licensing director. We also respect Woolworths’ decision not to proceed.
“Despite Woolworths’ decision people remain able to enjoy a drink responsibly in the Darwin and Palmerston area and enjoy choice. There are several hundred licensed liquor outlets across the region.”
The five-year battle
In December 2016, the NT government introduced legislation that limited the floor size of bottle shops to 400sqm.
The move meant Dan Murphy’s was unable to obtain a development permit. Endeavour Drinks Group commenced legal action to have the floor size restriction quashed, but later withdrew it.
A review by former chief justice Trevor Riley recommended changes to the Northern Territory’s alcohol policies, including scrapping the floor-size restrictions, capping the number of take away liquor outlets and setting a floor price for alcohol.
Chief Minister Michael Gunner conceded that he made an error in pushing for the 400-square-metre rule, which had been dubbed the “Dan Ban”.
“I got that one wrong going into the election and it has been good to see that Trevor [Riley] has come forward with this report with a much more considered, better way of dealing with density and sales of take-away outlets,” Gunner said.
When Endeavour’s application to the NT Liquor Commission was rejected last year, Gunner said he was disappointed by the decision.
“Territorians want a Dan Murphy’s,” he noted. “I want to see a Dan Murphy’s in Darwin.
“Today’s decision is a kick in the guts for responsible drinkers, who want more choice in the Darwin market.”