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Community Buyouts

A community buyout occurs when members of the public form a community enterprise to purchase an existing business that is about to cease operation or revive a closed business.

Small businesses play a vital role in keeping rural communities alive by providing essential services such as a post office, petrol station, hotel, hardware supplies or general store. The closure of a rural business often hits smaller communities much harder than larger towns, where other businesses can fill the gap of lost services or jobs.

The following are examples of community buyouts that have occurred in rural Australia.

  Fuel retailers
  General stores
  Related links


Kaniva Community Co-operative Ltd, Victoria

In 2004, a major oil company decided to decommision the only retail fuel outlet in the rural community of Kaniva, 400 km west of Melbourne, after failing to find a buyer for the business. With the nearest town being over 40 km to the east, Kaniva residents faced the prospect of a 80km return trip to purchase fuel. Local residents and businesses formed a co-operative on the fear that losing the town's only fuel outlet will increase the population drift from Kaniva to other larger rural centres, threatening businesses and jobs that are needed to sustain the viability of the community. Case study


The Community Co-operative Store (Nuriootpa) Ltd, South Australia

The community of Nuriootpa in the Barossa Valley formed the Barossa Community Co-operative Store (Nuriootpa) Ltd in 1944 to purchase the local department store after the retirement of the business owner. Over the ensuring years, the co-operative has expanded its operations to include a Supermarket, Hardware, Homemakers Carpet Court and Betta Electrical Franchise. Today, co-operative has an annual turnover in excess of $50 million and employs over 250 staff.

Pyrenees Store Co-operative Ltd, Victoria

In 2000, the general store at Lexton was closed, leaving the small rural community 160km north west of Melbourne without a Post Office. After failing to find a buyer for the business, the community formed the Pyrenees Store Co-operative Ltd and successfully tendered for the Post Office licence. In 2004, the co-operative became a Rural Transaction Centre, providing a range of government and business services.

The Watchem Community Co-operative Ltd, Victoria

The small rural community of Watchem 230km north west of Melbourne formed a co-operative to save the town's general store after it was destroyed by fire in 1990. After the owners decided not to rebuild the store, the community formed The Watchem Community Co-operative Ltd in 1991 to purchase the property and rebuild the store. The co-operative now leases the store to an independent business operator.

Walbundrie Co-operative Limited, NSW

In 1974, the owner of the Walbundrie General Store decided to close the business. A public meeting elected a steering committee to investigate establishing a co-operative to run the business. After community consultations, the store reopened as a branch of the Albury Rural Co-operative Ltd. In 1976, the co-operative informed the community that it was closing the store in February 1977.

The community of Walbundrie, 50 kms north of Albury, then formed the Walbundrie Co-operative Ltd to reopen and run the store. Today, the co-operative provides a range of services services to the local community including Post Office facilities, groceries, a take-away food outlet, rural merchandise, newsagency, fuel and oil products, an agency for insurance, and banking facilities.


Devenish Community Hotel Co-operative Ltd, Victoria

Devenish is a small rural community located 240km north east of Melbourne. Like many rural towns across Australia, population decline has seen most businesses in Devenish close, leaving the hotel and general store as the last in town. When faced with the closure of the hotel after the owners could not sell the business, the community formed the Devenish Community Hotel Co-operative Ltd in 2000 to purchase and run the hotel.

Hopetoun Community Hotel Co-operative Society Ltd, Victoria

The co-operative was formed in 1957 to build and operate a new hotel on the site of a condemned hotel in the rural town of Hopetoun, 420km north west of Melbourne. The Ballarat Brewing Company decided to close the 62 year old Commercial Hotel as it did not meet new standards applying to Victorian hotels. The Hopetoun Progress Association, concerned the closure of the hotel would leave the town with only one hotel, met with the company to discuss the future of the hotel. The company agreed to make a gift of the land and hotel licence if the community built a new hotel.

Yinnar Community Hotel Co-operative Ltd, Victoria

The rural community of Yinnar 150km east of Melbourne formed the Yinnar Community Hotel Co-operative Ltd in 1972 to purchase the local hotel after its aging owner could not sell the business. After employing a manager for a number of years, the co-operative now leases the hotel premises to a licencee. Each year the co-operative distributes a dividend to members, hands out grants to community organisations and sponsors the local Australian Rules football team.


    More information and assistance - Co-operative Development Services Ltd
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    Co-op Comeback In the Outback, Ethical Investor magazine, April 2006.

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