The Dundas Shire Council in Western Australia, spanning over 93,000 square kilometres, recently invested $1.43 million to acquire the only supermarket in their small town, Norseman. This decision was driven by a desire to support the community amidst challenges like a decreasing population and reduced ratepayer revenue. With fewer than 700 residents, the shire includes Norseman, the remote Eucla border post, and various pastoral and mining areas.
The council’s purchase of the Norseman IGA earlier in the year was aimed at establishing a new revenue source. The deal also included a $185,000 house and a post office, and the council took control in early September. The latest financial reports revealed that the supermarket had a turnover of $517,543 and a profit of $251,540 for September.
Shire President Laurene Bonza plans to reinvest the profits into community projects once the council’s reserves are replenished. She expressed confidence in the project’s success and mentioned plans to replace the 75-year-old supermarket building to rejuvenate the town centre. The shire’s workforce has expanded from about 35 to 60 since the purchase, though the decision has sparked some controversy.
The acquisition coincided with a public disagreement with Norseman’s long-time GP, Dr Graham Rowlands, over funding for additional support as he approaches retirement. The shire’s CEO, Peter Fitchat, clarified in a report that the supermarket deal was unrelated to the council’s decision not to fund the doctor’s request, despite Dr Rowlands’ claims to the contrary.
Local residents have mixed reactions. Betty Batty, a long-time Norseman resident, noticed improved food variety under council ownership, while pharmacist Adam Hawwari observed better staffing and organisation. However, pensioner Richard Kleindiest expressed concerns about the cost of living. He suggested that the council focus on enhancing local amenities rather than rebuilding the supermarket, as the existing store adequately serves the community’s needs.