By Rowan Forster
Pakenham and Warragul are set to go toe-to-toe to secure Eastern Victoria’s biggest retail development, with the West Gippsland town jockeying to host the region’s first Kmart.
Minister for Planning Richard Wynne on Thursday approved a zoning change of land on Hazel Drive, Warragul, allowing Baw Baw Shire to pursue a major retail outlet.
The council revealed it has been in discussions with a prospective developer, who holds both Kmart and Bunnings as tenants.
It has sparked rumours the Warragul development could swipe Australia’s leading discount department store from Pakenham’s grasp.
The rezoning comes just weeks after Cardinia Shire received a planning application for a $43 million “mega-development” on the Princes Highway, proposing to include a major department chain and a cinema complex.
Details surrounding the Pakenham facility remain scarce, while the Warragul proposal is beginning to take shape.
Mr Wynne said the $30 million development will deliver more than 260 full-time jobs and 150 construction positions.
Mayor of Baw Baw Shire Joe Gauci was thrilled with the decision, citing it as a breakthrough the community has been longing for.
“Our community has been crying out for this type of retail development, but without appropriate land and zoning it’s been difficult to get prospective developers on side,” he said.
“Now that the appropriate zoning is in place, we have the green light to accept applications for more retail development and make this happen.”
He said the retail breakthrough would help Warragul recoup spending that otherwise enters neighbouring economies.
“This is about redirecting discount department store spending that is currently directed outside the catchment to stores in Moe, Morwell and Pakenham,” Cr Gauci said.
Given the proximity between Pakenham and Warragul, some fear it is unlikely Kmart would enter two new geographical markets within a narrow timeframe.
Kmart has continued to remain tight-lipped on both proposals.
As it stands in Pakenham, locals are forced to travel to Westfield Fountain Gate – roughly 20 kilometres away – to watch the latest films and shop at Kmart.
The applicant behind the Pakenham proposal, Johnson Roberts Day Ptd Ltd, is Australia’s first integrated planning, design and place-making practice.
It operates out of Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Perth and Jakarta.
The Gazette contacted Johnson Roberts Day and confirmed the application had been lodged; however, the developers declined to release further information.
Preliminary details suggest the developer will also install associated car and bicycle parking, loading docks and illuminated advertising signs as part of the construction.
Cardinia Shire has been contacted for further information on the planning application.