the “Big Box”, Stop Woolworths protest action, Mullumbimby,
12th July, 2008
Image: © Brenden Allen/Northern Star
in Aboriginal language means “foot of the mountain” and
the town is nestled at the foot of a green pyramid in the rural hinterland
of Byron Bay, NSW, Australia. Mullumbimby is an old-fashioned town with
a population of 3,300 where farmers, ex-hippies and young families mingle
in the streets. Small business thrives in its friendly atmosphere.
A thunderbolt hit on New Years Day 2008 when The Byron Shire Echo declared
Woolworths was coming to town; they had bought land from a local supermarket
that had got permission to expand. “It’s the wrong site”
we complained, “the street is too narrow, the ground is too wet,
the plan is too ugly, our town will choke with traffic and our businesses
will die.” Local council found the plans “unacceptable”.
It was time for community demonstration! On 12 July 2008, hundreds of
people converged, colourfully dressed, waving placards such as “Bullies:
the Fast Fraud People” and “Buy Local or its Bye Bye Mullum”.
Our Green Mayor addressed the crowd “We have been shafted by the
State Government”; a local estate agent warned of the impact on
the vibrancy of the town when small businesses have to close; another
described the sewerage proposals as “ludicrous” as they
ignored State Health regulations.
The excited crowd took off down the railway lines to the Woolworths
site for a ceremonial burning of a cardboard Big Box. The event was
featured nationally on ABC’s “Four Corners”, in Sydney
and local papers.
Despite Council and community protests, State Government approved the
Woolworths construction. Locals are looking for a legal loophole to
challenge them, whilst others plan to preserve community by making another
market where contact between people is the main consideration; where
both farmers and locals can exchange produce and recycle items.
The Woolworths Big Box threat has highlighted the importance of maintaining
our quality of life, sense of belonging, and of keeping our beloved
community prosperous and intact.
Lilly, Coordinator, Mullumbimby Community Action Network