Community & Business

5 December, 2023

Locals ask where’s Woolies?

DESPITE promises that construction of a new shopping complex would begin this year, soil is yet to be turned on the Mareeba Woolworths development site, with the major supermarket chain unable to confirm whether it will be coming to the town.

By Ellie Fink

Locals ask where’s Woolies? - feature photo

This is the sixth time a development has been approved for the site opposite the Mareeba Square complex, which houses Coles, on Byrnes Street in the past 23 years, with residents quickly losing hope for the project. 


For decades, locals have been hoping for more options when it comes to their weekly shopping, taking to Facebook with their thoughts last week. 

“Woolies been coming to Mareeba for 25 years. Just talk,” Joyce Hando said. 

“Agree. Come here in 2012 and was told that Woolies would be here by the end of 2013... it's the end of 2023. Reckon it'll be there by the end of 2033?” Nadia Pedersen replied. 

“Just what is the hold up this time? We have all seen the proposed development plans put forward by a southern company, right now large volumes of the community of Mareeba take the drive to Atherton to either shop at the magnificent IGA supermarket or Woolworths,” Denis McKinley wrote. 

“Mareeba desperately needs a Woolworths on the old sawmill site to make groceries more competitive for the consumer, and the big one is to create more jobs for members of the Mareeba Shire.”

“Yes, a Woolies would be a good start ... this town needs to grow. There are enough people here now,” Darren Hargrave said. 

Other commenters said competition in the town would benefit the whole local economy, while others said the CBD was stuck in a “time war”.

Sphere Group Development gained approval from Mareeba Shire Council in March for a shopping centre of approximately 3500sqm of the 4500sqm, claiming the main tenant would be Woolworths, while the remaining 1000sqm would be allocated to other retail stores. 

The company has since gone radio-silent over the project despite promising residents shovels would be in the ground by mid this year and be completely operational by the end of 2024.

When asked by The Express whether Woolworths had committed to the new centre, a company spokesperson would not confirm that an arrangement was in place between Woolworths and the developers, saying it was “in discussions with Sphere Group and will be able to share more updates in due course”.

With rumours afoot about the development, locals are asking questions of Mareeba Shire for an update on the project, but as Mayor Angela Toppin points out, council has no involvement in the construction of the centre.

“Following Council’s approval, it is up to the developer to progress with the application and to construct the shopping centre,” she said.

“The proposed development will benefit residents and visitors alike, and the approval is in line with council’s robust history of supporting and encouraging development opportunities across the shire.”

Mareeba Chamber of Commerce president Joe Moro said if the project did not go ahead, it would be disappointing to see another development on that site fall through.

“I have seen all the different forms of the (past) developments take shape and then fail, I think there has been a long desire in Mareeba over the past 23 years to see something happen on that block,” he said.

“(If it fails) it is a pity because the developer obviously wanted to see it all go ahead, but from a Mareeba point of view, I think we have a great vibrant CBD, and there are a lot of wonderful shops people can still go to,” he said.

Sphere Group Development were contacted for a comment.


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