Queensland government considers intervention to speed-up Costco development process

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 8th November 2012

Deputy Premier and State Development and Infrastructure and Planning Minister Jeff Seeney is considering a ministerial call-in of the approved Costco Warehouse at North Lakes, near Brisbane.

“Moreton Bay Regional Council approved the Costco development, however the approval has since been appealed by two separate parties in the Planning and Environment Court,” Mr Seeney said.

The nearby Westfield North Lakes shopping centre and Dexus Property Group are seeking to overturn the approval in the Brisbane Planning and Environment Court due to claims that the Costco development is “inconsistent” with town plans.

The Westfield North Lakes shopping centre currently has Coles, Woolworths and Aldi supermarkets which would face extra competition if Costco opened.

Mr Seeney said he had issued a proposed call in notice to allow parties 15 business days to have their say on whether or not the development “involves state interests” and should be called in.

“I want to make it perfectly clear that this does not mean the project will necessarily be approved. I will consider all applications before making a final decision.”

Mr Seeney said he was responding to a request from the applicant (Costco), who was concerned that the appeals in the Planning and Environment Court will put delivery of the development at risk.

If the Deputy Premier calls in and re-assesses the application, the current appeals will have no further effect, and his decision cannot be appealed on planning grounds.

“Delivery of the proposed Costco development would support the existing North Lakes employment opportunity area, support small and medium business opportunities and expansion within the region,” Mr Seeney said.

“The project is expected to generate 575 jobs as well as an estimated 160 jobs during the six month construction stage,” he said.

Mr Seeney said that this was the second time the Queensland Government, led by Premier Newman, had considered a ministerial call in under the Sustainable Planning Act 2009.

He said the closing date for submissions by stakeholders was 27 November 2012 and the Minister said he was required under legislation to make a decision about whether or not to call-in the development by 24 December 2012.

The proposed 14,000 square metre Costco store was approved by the Moreton Bay Regional Council in August 2012.

The international Costco warehouse chain currently operates three stores in Australia, which operates on a shopper membership system and offers cheaper prices for bulk purchases.

Costco declined to comment, but had previously expressed concerns that the appeal process (prior to the Minister’s announcement) could be a delaying matter that could put the development at risk.

The 2008 Federal government enquiry into the competitiveness of Australia’s retail grocery sector found that town planning appeals were an impediment to new players seeking to enter the market. Australian Food News recently reported planning concerns involving Woolworths in New South Wales.

Costco is a potential challenger to the dominant Coles and Woolworths supermarket chains, although it is early days yet for the Costco group in Australia.