By Andy Young

The Endeavour Drinks Group (EDG), through Woolworths, is lodging legal action against the Northern Territory Government’s ruling on liquor store size.

Last year EDG submitted plans to build an 1800-square metre store as part of a new $40m commercial development close to Darwin Airport. However the Territory’s Government introduced a law in December last year that limited the floor size of bottleshops to 400-square metres.

Both sides have continued negotiations on the development, but despite what EDG called “several constructive meetings” the Government has kept the ruling in place, pushing EDG into taking the Federal Court action.

Shane Tremble, EDG’s Head of Corporate Services, told TheShout: "After what we thought were several constructive meetings, we have learnt that the Gunner Territory Government has decided to leave in place its 400 square metre regulation it agreed prior to the election with the NT Hotels Association.

"We believe Territorians and visitors to Darwin should be offered a world class liquor retail shopping experience and access to Dan Murphy's full range of craft beers, fine wines and artisan spirits. On our customer's behalf, we are now left with no choice but to contest the validity of the regulation in the Federal Court in Canberra.

"We take this decision regretfully as we had hoped the Gunner Government would see common sense and support the clear wishes of its electorate who overwhelming support bringing a Dan Murphy's to Darwin. We share Territorians disappointment that they have instead decided to honour a pre-election commitment to the Hotels Association.”

The Northern Territory’s Chief Minister, Michael Gunner has said that the Government is planning a review of its Liquor Act, but denied this move was the result of the impending legal action.

“We said we’d review (the Liquor Act) and we are,” Gunner said, adding that there was “no magic number” for retail floor size. 

“This lawsuit does not change anything for us as a Government,” Gunner added. “We are going through the review process.”

Tremble welcomed the review, but said he disappointed that the issue of floor space would not be dealt with separately.

"We would support any evidence-based policy that can be shown to reduce alcohol related harm, and we have a long history of addressing these issues with effective local solutions,” Tremble said. “We will be a willing participant in the Liquor Act review, but we know from experience of previous reviews of the NT Liquor Act that they take considerable time and recommendations that are announced as being supported by Government are frequently not acted upon.

"In light of comments made by the Chief Minister that 400 square metres is not a magic number, it is disappointing that the issue of floor space has been included in this review rather than being dealt with decisively.

"A $40 million privately funded investment involving over 100 construction jobs and ongoing retail employment for 30 Territorians has been put on hold without any evidence to support the decision other than a letter of agreement to the NT Hotels Association's demands.

"We thank the community for their incredibly strong support, and we hope our legal action can fast-track a resolution and allow this development to proceed in a timely manner.

"As part of the review, we will share evidence already provided to the Government that there is no relationship between Dan Murphy's entry into a community and any increase in alcohol related harm.”

Property Director of NT Airports Ross Baynes told the ABC that he was disappointed by the Government's position.

"We're disappointed the Government has chosen not to repeal the 400 metre restriction,” Baynes said.

"Whatever position Woolworths takes, the airport will support them in their action."

The Shout Team

The leading online news service for Australia's beer, wine, spirits and hospitality industries.

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