1500 tell Woolies: get out of our site

The sea of protesters surges from Wangaratta’s Merriwa Park to the central Safeway supermarket. Picture: JOHN RUSSELL
The sea of protesters surges from Wangaratta’s Merriwa Park to the central Safeway supermarket. Picture: JOHN RUSSELL

NO Safeway, No Way.

That was the chant as 1500 people marched through the streets of Wangaratta yesterday, protesting against plans for a petrol service station near a school and aged-care home.

The huge turnout stopped traffic.

A mix of young, old and all ages in between carried placards on a route that led them to the Safeway supermarket in the city centre.

Organisers called on all those there to phone five people and tell them to boycott the supermarket today.

Organiser Simon Quilty said the turnout had been stunning “and way beyond our expectations”.

“Today we voted with our feet. We sent a clear message to Safeway that we are not willing to compromise,” he said.

“Tomorrow we will vote with our wallets.

“This is a case of a bunch of executives sitting in a city office and dictating where a service station should go in our city.

“We say we are not against the petrol station, we are against this location.”

Opponents of the 24/7 service station were united across all demographics and age groups over the plan organisers have said was a health and safety threat.

The service station is just 40 metres from a school crossing used by more than 100 students.

Solicitor Elizabeth Stagg said it was simply the wrong site.

“This won’t be a few extra cars on the road — Woolworths say it will be up to 80 cars an hour at peak times — going into and coming out of the petrol station,” she said.

“There are other options for Safeway, better options.”

Maureen Bordignon agreed.

“I think the turnout shows how people feel about this,” she said.

“I don’t think anyone can remember an issue that has created a crowd like this of so many frustrated people.”

Jodie Gibson has a child at St Patrick’s primary and another off to school soon.

“I’m shocked by the turnout. It is great for Wangaratta but I don’t think anyone expected there would be so many,” she said.

“No one is opposed to a Safeway service station. What we are opposed to is the location.

“I have always done pick-up there in Ryley Street. It is really busy.

“Add 70 or 80 cars to that and it is an accident waiting to happen.”

Woolworths late yesterday offered a compromise on operating hours for the station but Mr Quilty said the hours were not the issue.

“It is the wrong location. There is no compromise on that,” he said.