By Casey Neill
Emerald’s garden centre is closing its doors to make way for the SES.
Emerald and District Co-operative Society will close the Mitre10 Garden Centre’s doors for the final time at 5pm on Friday 31 August, after the site owner sold the land.
But word is only just reaching some co-op members, less than a fortnight from the last trading day.
Rod Dugmore from Avonsleigh contacted the Mail after calling the centre to order gravel.
He said he was told that they didn’t have any because they were closing.
“We’ve been shareholders for over 40 years,” he said.
“There’s been no negotiation or communication by the co-op directors about what’s happening there.
“The whole thing is just an absolute outrage.”
Mr Dugmore said he was “pretty angry about it”.
“Clearly the co-op is not a co-op anymore,” he said.
Another concerned member told the Mail that shareholders could have banded together and tried to retain the Belgrave-Gembrook Road site had they been informed.
Emerald and District Co-operative Society CEO Len O’Donnell said there’d been a large notice board on the footpath bearing the closure date for the past month, and all co-op businesses had been distributing at letter from the board outlining the closure.
“We didn’t finalise a closure date until late July,” he said.
Mr O’Donnell said the co-op was actively involved with the expressions of interest in the site, and prior to that had made an offer to buy the land.
“We put our best foot forward, with an offer over and above our valuation received by a registered valuer,” he said.
“We did our very best, always considering the best outcome for our members and community.
“The board were extremely investigative in all matters pertaining to the potential sale of property.
“We feel we’ve done everything in a proper manner.
“It’s a commercial reality. We were out-bid.”
Mr O’Donnell said the garden centre was important to the community.
“We acknowledge the importance of the SES to our region and supportive of a new permanent purpose built facility to assist them to continue greater service to our community,” he said.
“However, it’s unfortunate that there is insufficient land available to develop this type of facility elsewhere and came at the co-operative’s expense.
“We have to move forward.
“We have to be more objective about what and where and how.”
He said there was no available land in the area that the garden centre could relocate to due to green wedge and rural conservation zones.
“However, we are always open to all possibilities,” he said.
The Mail reported in March that the State Government would spend $1.8 million to build the new SES headquarters, with construction to finish by mid next year.
The tin shed on the Old Gembrook Road site the Emerald SES has called home for 35 years has long been inadequate, but the site’s topography made it impossible to build a larger unit there.