Western Highway retail push

A NORTHERN Grampians Shire Councillor has vowed to continue fighting to ensure more retail shopping is established on the busy Western Highway.

A push is being led by Cr Wayne Rice to see more retail outlets on the Western Highway in Stawell.

A push is being led by Cr Wayne Rice to see more retail outlets on the Western Highway in Stawell.

Cr Wayne Rice made an unsuccessful attempt to defer an item on council's agenda at Monday night's meeting in St Arnaud, relating to the placement of the draft Municipal Strategic Statement of council on public exhibition.

He said he simply had not been given enough time to consider the report.

"I had the opportunity to open up this draft document at two o'clock this afternoon and have a read of it," Cr Rice said.

"I don't think that's fair that council should be put in that position of receiving documents at two o'clock before a council meeting and be expected to read, absorb and make judgement on it.

"I believe there was a discussion held some time ago that said reports have to be given to councillors seven clear days before a meeting and I don't find two o'clock this afternoon adequate."

Cr Rice said he was aware discussion took place on the matter at a briefing session the week prior to the meeting, but he was unable to attend that session.

"I just find that this document is not showing leadership from this council. At one of the events I attended in the last couple of weeks, a councillor development weekend, the focus was on councils and councillors showing leadership. To me, to accept that document in its current form, I would not be showing leadership.

"I think we, as councillors, need to have more discussion, more input into this, before it goes to the community for consultation, because there are areas there that I certainly do want to see go ahead. I'm certainly of the belief that we should have retail shopping on the Western Highway in Stawell. I believe that is going to be the future for economic sustainability and life, not only for Stawell, but the Northern Grampians Shire as a whole.

"I think there is still a lot of discussion to be had around that and to accept this document in its current form, I would not be happy with."

Cr Rice pointed specifically to a section within the Municipal Strategic Statement that aims to: 'Discourage inappropriate retail and residential land use on the Western

Highway'.

He said comments such as that were an indication council did not want retail shopping on the Western Highway.

"There are passages in the Municipal Strategic Statement that say 'We will not allow retail shopping on the Western Highway'," Cr Rice said.

"I believe that statement alone is causing the death of Stawell, because we are not encouraging development.

"If someone came along and asked to build a supermarket in Stawell or a major shopping complex, where would we put them? There is nowhere.

"We constantly hear comments from people like how come Ararat gets everything? How come Aldi went to Ararat, why didn't they come to Stawell?

"The reason is we don't have anywhere and we've got to change our way of thinking."

Cr Rice said concerns had also been raised about contaminated land on the Western Highway, but he believed this could easily be overcome.

"One of the ways to get around that contaminated land on the highway is to allow retail shopping on the highway," he said.

"That will allow for a carpark to be built over that contaminated land and that will see development.

"I now the argument that if we allow retail shopping on the Western Highway, then they will build a bypass around Stawell.

"I can tell you what, if you haven't the brains enough to work it out for yourself, that one day a bypass is going to go around Stawell. I don't know where, I don't know when, but it will happen one day. When the duplication of the highway comes to Stawell, the government isn't going to be happy with that at the end of the day. They are going to want to carry that duplication right through to the South Australian border and when that happens, a bypass will go around Stawell.

"Let's not not miss out on the opportunity right now to capitalise on those dollars that are passing through our township now and make it happen. Let's get people out of their cars and spending money in the Northern Grampians Shire because the flow on effect will be enormous."

Cr Rice moved that the matter be deferred for a month, with discussion to take place at briefing sessions, but fellow councillors defeated the motion.

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