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At last, a $75m goer distribution centre

At last, a $75m goer distribution centreBuilding starts this month on a $75 million grocery distribution centre near Launceston Airport to service the state. The major development at Western Junction is a joint undertaking by national supermarket chain Woolworths and Tasmanian Independent Retailers through their joint supply arm, Statewide Independent Wholesalers.

The move will rationalise four existing distribution centres across Tasmania into one Northern location. It cements a future 25-year relationship between the two long-time supermarket distribution partners and gives security to staff as well as further investment in the grocery trade. The new centre will be built on a 19.8 hectare site on the opposite side of Evandale Road to Statewide Independent Wholesalers’ existing frozen and chilled storage.

Statewide Independent Wholesalers general manager David Lanham said yesterday that planning had started more than two years ago. ‘‘But the global financial crisis slowed us down,’’ Mr Lanham said. ‘‘We were originally going to move the frozen and chilled storage centre on to the new site at the same time but we will probably do that at a later stage now.’’

The development has been kick started by Sydney-based development company Charter Hall, which is investing in the project. Charter Hall told the Australian Securities Exchange late last month that its industrial wholesale fund Core Plus would acquire the new 46,000 square metre distribution centre for $75 million. It said it had development approval to build an additional 25,000 square metres.

The centre will be built by Woolworths and operated by Statewide Independent Wholesalers under a 25-year lease from Charter Hall, which will take ownership once the development has been completed. Mr Lanham said that Statewide Independent Wholesalers was a 60-40 joint venture between Woolworths and Tasmanian Independent Retailers that was unique in Australia.

It was formed in 1981 by two independent groups - Roelf Vos Supermarkets, now part of Woolworths - and Northern Wholesalers Co-op Society, which became Tasmanian Independent Retailers. It has serviced Woolworths as well as more than 200 independent supermarkets across the state from its existing distribution centres since 1982. Mr Lanham said that the new centre was a great result for the state as all four existing distribution centres were at capacity. Mr Lanham expects to finalise negotiations to appoint a builder for the development in the next few days. Earthworks are expected to start this month.