Council will not appeal judgment

KAREN GOODGER
Last updated 13:00 23/09/2011

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Nelson City Council will not be appealing a so-called precedent-setting High Court judgment against its gambling policy following a closed-door discussion yesterday.

The Nelson Mail understands councillors went against a staff recommendation in opting not to pursue a costly legal battle against last month's ruling which deemed it carried out inadequate consultation before making changes to the policy last year.

The changes enabled nine pokie machines to be installed in the Brewers Bar in Victory Square, prompting outrage from residents who formed the Nelson Gambling Taskforce to fight the decision.

Nelson Mayor Aldo Miccio has been describing the judgment as "potentially precedent setting" and so far refused to apologise to residents for the council's lack of consultation.

He declined to comment this morning because the result of the confidential discussions had not been officially released. This was in the hands of council staff and out of his control, he said.

Chief executive Keith Marshall confirmed to the Nelson Mail that councillors had decided not to appeal.

"We'll have a press release out on that in due course. It's not in the public arena yet."

He said the staff recommendation and legal advice was confidential and would remain so because it was "legally privileged". "The public interest doesn't override legal privilege."

Asked whether he was happy with the decision, Mr Marshall replied, "my happiness or otherwise with council decisions is completely irrelevant". It was "of course" the right decision, he said.

Mr Marshall did not know what the case had cost the council to date, nor did he know what the implications would be for the pokie machines at Brewers Bar.

"There's a whole bunch of in-privilege and in-confidence things around this that we need to be doing some more work on."

The council will need to update its 2007 gambling policy "at some stage" and review its consultative procedures as a result of the gambling decision and the other High Court case it lost on its proposed Montgomery Square upgrade earlier this year, he said.

"Right now most of our organisational capacity is around our 10-year plan."

Taskforce chairman Darci Goldsworthy today welcomed the council's decision not to appeal the High Court judgment.

"Along with the rest of the community we now look forward to hearing from the Department of Internal Affairs in relation to our request that this matter be set right once and for all."

Internal Affairs spokesman Trevor Henry said it had not been notified of the council's decision and it was still working out what the implications of the High Court judgment were for the Brewers Bar licence.

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- The Nelson Mail

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