By Aimee Chanthadavong

While the NSW government has revised a bill, which is aimed to protect small retailers from shopping centre landlords, it continues to fail to focus on town planning, the Urban Taskforce said.

The Retail Leases Amendment Bill, which has been released for public comment, calls for tougher laws to protect small businesses from retail landlords.

Speaking to Retailbiz, Aaron Gadiel, Urban Taskforce CEO, said as the retail lease law continues to be re-written nothing is being done to address “the real culprit”, town planning laws.

“What we really need is to give retail businesses a choice. Right now, the town planning laws in each region, says that if you’re selling fashion, household goods, larger consumer items, it needs to be in this shopping centre, giving shopping centre landlord very strong bargaining position because small retailers can either take it or leave it,” he said.

“This obviously puts them in a difficult position as they have to agree because they have no other choice as to where they locate their stores.”

As a result, Gadiel said he is finding retailers are paying almost double in rent than other countries because they’ve become “hostages of landlords”.

“At the moment these regulations of retail leases are a poor substitution in addressing the massive underlying imbalance of market power.”

When asked what Gadiel what he suggests will help the matter, he said increased community awareness and flexibility to town planning laws are key.

“We need to provide geographical choice, which doesn’t mean putting another shopping centre next to the first one, but provide more retails hubs in our community. This will create more competitive tension, giving retailers a raw deal and the ability to negotiate rental prices,” he said.

“I think we also need a strong community debate in terms of how retail development is affecting retailers and the consumers.”