COSTCO could be coming to Kingston with council’s backing despite a split in opinion between councillors.
There was debate at last month’s council meeting about how the US bulk buy supermarket goliath’s arrival in Kingston may hurt existing businesses’ profits.
A council officers’ report on Costco’s proposal noted it was “inevitable that such a store will be located in south east Melbourne” because of the broad catchment area for customers but cautioned that the viability of nearby retail hubs such as Aspendale Gardens, Dingley, Thrift Park, Cheltenham and Mentone could be threatened in the longer term.
South ward councillor Tamsin Bearsley said she understood the council officers’ concerns but supported Costco’s proposal to build a vast warehouse-style store at Moorabbin Airport.
“I welcome the jobs and the activity and the visitors it will bring,” Cr Bearsley said.
“The benefits and opportunities far outweigh the challenges.”
Cr Bearsley said the challenges could be tackled by continually speaking to both Moorabbin Airport Corporation and Costco as the plans progress.
She acknowledged concerns that Costco could impact on supermarkets in Kingston suburbs such as IGA and Safeway but said Costco had a different business model than other retailers.
“You buy in bulk there and the average customer only goes to Costco eight times a year and has to buy a (membership) card,” Cr Bearsley said.
However, the arrival of Costco was opposed by Cr Rosemary West who said only green wedge or aviation approved activities should be given the go ahead on Moorabbin Airport land.
“This application is inconsistent with every officer report and the argument that this is justifiable for jobs would mean we would build all over the green wedge,” Cr West said.
“This is putting business first, last and everywhere in between…it is not good planning and I think this council should oppose it.”
Cr Geoff Gledhill disagreed and said a Costco warehouse would lure shoppers from a wide area to Kingston.
“We can’t afford to reject a proposal like this and we should embrace it as a win-win situation,” he said.
“We can’t hide from competition and as a council we don’t do any business any service by artificially or temporarily shielding them from the realities of the market.”
Cr Gledhill said council “can’t live in the past but have to look at the contemporary demands of the community.”
Cr Ron Brownlees realised the Costco proposal was “at odds” with council’s planning guidelines which oppose out of centre retailing but wondered how long council should “protect” existing businesses.
“How long can we protect… Coles, Woolworths and Aldi?” he asked.
“I do have reservations about this…but I don’t think Costco will affect some of the local shopping centres,” Cr Brownlees said.
“You’ve got to pay to go in to Costco and shop… and not a lot of people will do that.”
Costco has warehouse retail outlets at Docklands and Ringwood.
Councillors David Eden and West voted against the Costco plan while councillors Brownlees, Bearsley, Gledhill and the mayor, Cr Paul Peulich, supported the proposal.
Crs Tamara Barth, Steve Staikos are John Ronke were absent.
Last Thursday, councillors Steve Staikos, David Eden and Rosemary West failed in a move to rescind council’s decision at a special meeting.
Cr Barth also expressed opposition to Costco’s plan.
“Going in with something that says we support the development…is not the right way forward…and we should maintain our stance of refusal [of out of centre retailing].”
Federal minister for infrastructure Warren Truss will now consider the proposal.