Friday, 13 November 2009

Romsey Hotel Decision

On 16 September 2008, this blog began with the first day of the VCAT hearings characterising the matter as "the longest sustained effort to bring pokies to a community that doesn't want them." That effort most likely ended yesterday as Justice Kevin Bell agreed with the community.

Click here to read a copy of the decision.

The decision is an inspiration for those who believe that taking social action will conclude with a positive result. The determination of former Macedon Ranges Mayor John Connor to see the matter through is to be admired. John acted on his genuine belief about pokies. It was more than just talk.
Beyond its inspirational effect, what is the real impact of the Romsey decision? Unfortunately, it has failed to make impact on either the VCGR or the Victorian government.

Since Romsey, the VCGR has made poor decisions in Ballarat RSL and Matthews Flinders cases. In failing in both instances to have due regard to the impact on local communities, the VCGR have acted contrary to Justice Bell's judgement that
"In the early cases, the commission said that meant the focus must be on district-wide community impacts. It is clear now that is not correct. Macedon Ranges Shire Council v Romsey Hotel Pty Ltd held the test applies to the district community ‘or any part or parts of it’. A social impact, therefore, is an ‘impact on the society or community (or some part or parts of it) in which the gaming machines are proposed to be located.’ "
In the Ballarat RSL matter, the VCGR failed to have literal regard to the sub-districts of Sebastopol and Buninyong. As a result, it made bad findings on the likely increase of pokie losses in the Ballarat community.

I failed in my endeavour to have the Ballarat RSL decision reviewed.

Worse was the Matthew Flinders decision where despite community opposition summarised in paragraph 109 of that decision that no regard whatsoever was given to the decision of Warren CJ, Maxwell P and Osborn AJA in Macedon Ranges Shire Council v Romsey Hotel Pty Ltd. In that matter, the City of Monash's view of the community of that venue was disregarded and and information survey submitted by Woolworths' was accepted despite being qualified by Woolworths' own consultant. See paragraphs 76-78 on pages 30-33, paragraphs 93-94 on page 38, par 100 on page 41 and paragraph 105 on page 42.

I submitted 8 grounds to the Council upon which the City of Monash could have appealed the bad Matthew Flinders decision. I failed in my efforts to get the City to take action. I was informed that because of legal costs, the City was not interested in an appeal. Monash's lack of resolve compares poorly to the determination of the Shire of Macedon Ranges against far larger odds.

The prospect of enormous legal bills is the Victorian pokie industry's most effective weapon.

No comments: