Wilkie weighs in on Officer pokies

Marilyn and Rob Dowsett and Deb and Andrew McNabb strongly oppose a proposal for pub with 60 poker machines 166801_02 Picture: BONNY BURROWS

By Bonny Burrows

An interstate politician has slammed Cardinia Shire Council for failing to consult the Officer community on plans for a pub with 60 gaming machines just a few hundred metres away from a primary school.
Tasmania’s Independent Federal Denison MP and advocate for poker machine reform Andrew Wilkie has joined Officer residents in the fight against the proposal for 2 Station Street, currently under consideration by council.
The outrage stems from a “loophole”, where because the proposed site falls within the town’s Urban Growth Zone, council is not obliged to undertake community consultation.
This has angered residents along with the Tasmanian MP, who argue such facilities shouldn’t be located in an “education hub”, with 11 schools within a two kilometre radius.
After being “tipped off” about the proposal, resident Andrew McNabb has made it his personal issue to inform the Officer and broader community about the dangers of poker machines and the effect on family life.
He has arranged a public meeting for 27 April to discuss the proposal and has also enlisted the support of Mr Wilkie in a bid to shut the project down.
Mr Wilkie, who encourages the sharing of information surrounding gaming machines through his PokieLeaks website, said it was “quite clear” the Officer community had not been consulted effectively about the introduction of the “addictive” machines.
“In fact, in my opinion the community’s been deliberately kept in the dark for reasons best known to the Cardinia Council,” Mr Wilkie said.
He encouraged people with any information about the proposal to share in it the public domain, “where it belongs”, and to also attend Mr McNabb’s meeting.
There, gaming experts will share their views on poker machines and residents will best decide what action to take moving forward.
“Let’s hope the public meeting next week can benefit from the kind of information currently being kept from ratepayers,” Mr Wilkie said.
Cardinia Shire Council’s acting strategic and economic development co-ordinator Tim Grace previously told the Gazette the council was still reviewing the application.
“In assessing the application, council must take into account a variety of issues, which includes the impact of the proposal on the amenity of the area and surrounding land uses,” Mr Grace said.
“The application is still under consideration and requires additional information from the applicant prior to any decision being determined.”
The public meeting will be held on 27 April at the Officer Public Hall, Tivendale Road, from 7.30pm.
The PokieLeaks website can be found at www.PokieLeaks.org