Cr Tony Wellington.
Cr Tony Wellington. Kari Bourne

‘Dumb’ choice to stop Masters

A MEDIA financial whiz has described the rejection of Noosa Masters Home Improvement centre as "providing a master class in dumb government".

Southern newspaper columnist Michael Pascoe, who was in town on Thursday as the opening speaker of the Noosa Mining and Exploration Conference, took aim at the Sunshine Coast Council knockback for "playing favourites, limiting competition and disadvantaging consumers".

"On the eve of Noosa de-amalgamating, the worthy councillors of the Sunshine Coast unanimously voted in March to play favourites, protecting Bunnings and Mitre 10 from the threat of a Masters store in Noosa and deciding where their constituents would be allowed to shop," Mr Pascoe wrote.

"If Wesfarmers and Woolworths want to compete hard, even to the point of Woolworths effectively subsidising Masters' customers, it is not the proper business of government to protect whoever the incumbents might be," Mr Pascoe said.

"The Noosa Mitre 10 (itself a large green building one would struggle to call sexy on its industrial estate) would no doubt suffer, but there's no evidence that the fewer jobs in the Mitre 10 shop are somehow more intrinsically valuable than the greater number of people likely to be employed in a Masters."

Mr Pascoe said: "I've only visited one (Masters) but found it impressive, found myself wanting to buy something, as the place made Bunnings look like the big cold sheds they are.

"The Masters store felt more expensive than Bunnings, yet had the same pricings.

"And Masters is showing a desire to get right into Bunnings' face in various places, not dividing up the geography as a comfortable duopoly should, but going head to head in a way that consumers enjoy but should also ensure low margins - or none. Interesting."

He said the Coast council was setting an "example of government folly on many levels" and quoted the two Noosa-based councillors.

Councillor Tony Wellington said at the meeting: "There is a massive war between Coles and Woolies, and I don't want Noosa to be collateral damage in this crazy war," Noosa hinterland councillor Tony Wellington said.

And Cr Russell Green said box-shaped buildings were "not sexy", before saying, "Unfortunately it's hard to make a blue box with white writing a sexy building, and the same with Bunnings."

But Mr Pascoe argued that competition was good. Wesfarmers owns Coles and Bunnings while Woolworths is rolling out its Masters mega stores - the one at Noosa Civic was to be substantially bigger than its Bunnings rival already built up the road.

"Maybe it's not the war that is crazy. Rather than collateral damage, Noosa residents would enjoy spoils of war," he said.

A council spokesman rejected any favouritism to retailers.

"In the past 12 months, Sunshine Coast Council has cut red tape, made it easier to do business, and provided the right conditions for investment which creates jobs - this has seen business confidence grow, new airlines, new businesses move here, and the expansion of new businesses," the spokesman said.

The spokesman said the council played an important role in developing a draft Economic Development Strategy which encouraged competition and reduced government interference - and that document had been endorsed by the State Government.