Two anti-alcohol bodies have objected to Endeavour Drinks Group’s application to open the first Dan Murphy’s in Darwin.
Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) and the NT Branch of the Public Health Association of Australia (NT PHAA) are among 17 objectors who have called for the NT Liquor Commission to reject the application during a Northern Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NTCAT) directions hearing.
FARE chief executive Michael Thorn told the NT News the application would endanger the surrounding community.
“We trust that the Commission will reject Woolworths’ brazen attempt to undermine the groundbreaking recommendations of the Riley Review of alcohol policy in the NT, which initiated the lengthy process to address the longstanding problems caused by alcohol across the Territory,” he said.
“Woolworths’ existing license is for a small, BWS convenience store in Stuart Park, while the proposed licence is for a Dan Murphy’s superstore 10-times the size — in effect 10 BWS stores in one giant warehouse which would flood the area with cheap alcohol.”
FARE and NT PHAA also claim the application “breaches the moratorium on new take away liquor licences”
However, EDG says the store will bring new jobs to Darwin and pump millions into the economy.
“Bringing to Darwin Dan Murphy’s will … provide a significant boost for the local economy,” said Woolworths’ Alistair Wyvill SC.
“Once open, Dan Murphy’s will create 40 new permanent jobs and will also provide significant support for the development of Darwin International Airport’s commercial precinct.”
EDG corporate services general manager Shane Tremble said he was still in the dark as to a final date for the hearing.
EDG has been involved in a three-year battle to open its first Northern Territory store.
The application finally made it into the hands of the NT Liquor Commission in late January.
Endeavour Drinks Group’s Shane Tremble told ABC News: “It’s a complex application, [the commission have] never determined anything like that before, we’ve never run an application like this up there before, it’s bound to take some time.
“As frustrated as I am with stuff that’s happened previously, that’s no criticism of the commission.
“They’ve only been in existence for 12 months and the information has apparently just dropped in their laps in the last little while.”
EDG first considered becoming part of the Darwin Airport Central development in 2015, but the plans were put on hold when 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.
Allegations were later raised in NT parliament that the Gunner Government’s liquor floor space legislation was introduced at the request of the Australian Hotels Association to keep competition out of the market.
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.
Tremble told NT News in July that the application “would not have been possible” without the decision by the Gunner Government to repeal its legislation limiting the floor space of bottlos to 400 sqm.
“We have full confidence in the Government’s vision for Darwin to be the ‘great capital’ of Northern Australia, and want to build a store that reflects positively on that vision and is a source of local pride worthy of showcasing to international tourists and interstate visitors,” Tremble said.
“We know that our application to bring a Dan Murphy’s to Darwin is overwhelmingly supported by the local community through both our own survey work and that conducted by an NT News poll which found over 84% of respondents were supportive.”
A new directions hearing date has been set for March 26.