Coles Distribution Centre's impending closure has resurrected a bid to secure a National Archives storage facility in Goulburn.
The possibility has been discussed for about nine years. Former Goulburn Mulwaree Mayor Geoff Kettle pushed the idea, culminating in a 2015 feasibility study and business case.
It found that shifting archives from offsite Canberra storage premises would achieve significant savings and create 140 direct and indirect jobs.
Now, council general manager Warwick Bennett says "the stars are aligning" in resurrecting the opportunity.
He and Mayor Bob Kirk were informed last Thursday that Coles was closing its Ducks Lane distribution centre on October 5. The facility, open since 2007, employs 147 people. Coles flagged its eventual closure in 2018 and the construction of two automated DCs, one in NSW and the other in Queensland.
Mr Bennett said the company was working with the council on workers' redeployment. However he and the mayor met last Friday with National Archives director general, David Fricker, about options for the Coles building.
"We have been in constant contact with the Archives for the seven years I've been here about relocating their whole storage facility to Goulburn," Mr Bennett said.
"At the moment they're paying in the order of $750 per square metre for very well located offices in Canberra to store archives whereas they could get it here for $150 to $180/sqm. That's a $40 million saving in lease fees alone."
He has also spoken to The Pelligra Group, which bought the Coles building in March, 2020. Mr Bennett said the company was keen to talk to the National Archives about leasing a "significant portion" of the 40,000sqm building. It would also construct any infrastructure required.
Mayor Bob Kirk wants the facility to also incorporate a digitisation hub.
He pointed to the David Tune review of the National Archives' functionality and efficiency. The 2020 report found that storing 1500 shelf kilometres of paper records was costing the federal government about $140m annually.
Out of this, only 11.9 per cent was of permanent value.
The review concluded that centralised digital storage would save $47.6m over seven years, and physical storage - $27.1m over the same period.
"A centralised offsite storage solution, with an on-demand digitisation service to give agencies access to their records, would provide substantial cost savings to government. Locating the storage facility in a regional area within 200km of Canberra would also lead to efficiencies, especially in transport and storage costs," the report stated.
He recommended that subject to a full business case, "to amalgamate storage, early transfer, preservation and on-demand digitisation of legacy Australian Government entity records."
Cr Kirk said Mr Fricker produced the Tune report at Friday's meeting.
The Mayor told The Post that at a time when prominent historians were lobbying government to allocate additional funds to the National Archives for digitisation, Goulburn had a proposal that could save the organisation money.
Media recently reported that the Archives was crowdfunding to raise $67.7 million needed to digitise vital records. Mr Fricker warned at the time that if the money wasn't raised in four years, the material would be lost forever.
Cr Kirk said while a digitisation and storage facility in Goulburn wouldn't replace all the Coles jobs, it was an economic opportunity.
"...It's one we want to pursue as much as we can because it promotes activity and employment in the area...There are a whole lot of reasons to get on board," he said.
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A Coles spokesman said the chain would hand back the site upon expiry of the lease in early 2022.
The Post has requested comment from Pelligra Group.
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