Woolworths' controversial new store angers locals: 'Death by a thousand cuts'

Woolworths is bulldozing a slither of remnant bushland, angering Gold Coast residents frustrated by ongoing urbanisation.

Video shot by a local wildlife rescuer on Tuesday shows a patch of gum trees piled up after they were knocked down this week. A group of native birds can be seen flocking around the fallen branches.

The new supermarket is just the latest development helping transform the once forested suburb of Coomera into a sea of quarter-acre blocks serviced by major retailers like Westfield and Starbucks.

Left - escalators going down to a Woolworths store. Right - a Google Map showing the distance from the Upper Coomera development site to Woolworths Coomera West
Residents have questioned why Woolworths has demolished habitat to build a new supermarket just five minutes from another Woolworths. Source: Getty / Google Maps

The new Woolworths will be the fourth in Coomera, with the retailer’s closest supermarket just a five-minute drive away. Coles also has three outlets in the suburb.

Why locals are concerned about the new Woolworths

While a portion of the site's habitat will be left undeveloped, Karina Waterman from Coomera Conservation Group argues Woolworths is contributing to what has been “death by a thousand cuts” for local wildlife.

“It started with a little bit of clearing here and a little bit there, those patches become bigger and bigger and closer and closer together,” she told Yahoo News Australia.

“They are like islands, but these islands are shrinking. They're getting smaller and smaller until we're left with just these last little pieces in place.

“When those spots go, whatever's living in them really doesn't have anywhere to go.”

Trees knocked down and a stump at the Woolworths development site at Upper Coomera.
Coomera locals are concerned about the loss of habitat on the Woolworths site. Source: Supplied

Will the Woolworths development harm koalas?

Coomera remains home to a significant population of endangered koalas, but numerous developments over the last two decades have fragmented their habitat.

Juvenile marsupials looking for new home ranges must now navigate busy roads as well as backyards with dogs and swimming pools. Rescuers are called to the region multiple times a week.

Native noisy miner birds perching on the bulldozed trees.
Native noisy miner birds were filmed perching on the bulldozed trees. Source: Supplied

A spokesperson for Woolworths confirmed it found “low onsite habitat value” and no evidence of koalas after conducting surveys on its site on the corner of Reserve Road and Brygon Creek Drive.

“The works which are approved by Council, involved consulting and engaging specialists prior to commencement to reduce any impacts through extensive site surveys, monitoring and studies,” the spokesperson said.

Will other wildlife be harmed by the development?

Ms Waterman agrees the block was unlikely to be a permanent home to koalas, but added these green spaces can still be important to them.

“While koalas may not be present, it doesn't mean to say they're not using the site for movement between habitat,” she said.

“Koalas are the species that everyone talks about, but there could also be other species of birds and animals using that area.”

It remains unclear what other wildlife has been benefiting from Woolworths' land as the company said it could not release its survey report.

A wildlife rescuer told Yahoo News Australia they had not assisted animals on the site itself but had attended to echidnas, wedge-tailed eagles and cockatoos in habitat across the road.

What has been the local response?

Woolworths said its development will create spaces for new businesses and deliver employment.

While some locals have welcomed the 200 new car spaces and road upgrade associated with the project, many have criticised its merit.

“Oh wow, just what we need… another freaking supermarket,” one social media user wrote.

“Are we seriously too lazy to drive to one of the other four nearby Woolies?,” another wrote.

“How many more supermarkets are required within 5 km of each other?” another person added.

One person shared an image of the development notification they received from Woolworths last week.

They were concerned about the project’s impact on wildlife and wrote: “Bye-bye beautiful lorikeet and kookaburra trees”.

“I don’t want more traffic and destroying nature just near my home,” another person wrote.

“Very, very sad, our poor native animals. Where are they supposed to live?” someone else said.

Development of the site is ongoing and Woolworths will employ a fauna specialist to supervise the works.

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