Mayor slams fellow councillors
COLAC Otway Shire mayor Stephen Hart has labelled fellow councillors’ decision as “immoral and unethical” when they voted to allow more poker machines in Colac.
Councillors voted 5-2 to give “in-principle” support to introducing 15 new poker machines to a Colac Turf Club, Golf Club and Returned and Services League complex.
The RSL would move 25 machines from its Colac site to the new $3.5-million Elliminyt centre if it gained further approval from council’s planning department, and the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation.
The council had received legal advice on whether councillors could give in-principle support without prejudging the future decisions, but councillors had varying interpretations of the advice.
Cr Frank Buchanan said he was pleased most councillors showed “leadership” by allowing the idea to progress.
“It lets those three groups look forward to taking the next step now, which is very important for them and our community,” Cr Buchanan said.
“It’s very important that Colac has good economic development – it’ll be very interesting to see what comes of it,” he said.
Cr Hart said the merger appeared to have merit but councillors had a responsibility to Colac’s disadvantaged people.
“We have legal obligations, moral and ethical obligations,” he said.
“The hypocrisy we hear today, where this council spends so much on addressing disadvantage yet we have people who are prepared to forgo this responsibility and prejudge a planning matter, prejudge the outcome of the gambling inquiry.
“We have a responsibility not only to people who are problem gamblers, we have a responsibility to their family members and their children in particular.
“What a disgrace we would abandon them in such a flippant way.”
Cr Brian Crook said removing 25 pokies from Murray Street to Elliminyt meant gamblers would have to make a deliberate decision to gamble.
He said the three Colac clubs needed the new centre to survive.
“To not support this would be to condemn
the RSL to a shop front at best, or at worst to condemn them to extinction,” Cr Crook said.
“This will be a boost to the local economy, expand the opportunities for functions and give Colac the opportunity as a convention centre so it’s not only about the pokies.”