The Trillian Trust’s appeal to retain pokie machines in Victory Square has been denied, and the machines have to be removed by next Friday, the Nelson Gambling Taskforce said today.
Spokesperson Darci Goldsworthy said the decision by the Gambling Commission represented a "huge victory" for a community that chose to ‘‘fight back against an injustice brought against them by Nelson City Council’’ by allowing pokies to be situated near a school, a kindergarten, shops and a playground in the heart of the Victory community.
Last year the taskforce went to the High Court and won a ruling that the council erred in the way it changed its gambling policy to allow the machines back into the area, and on November 30 the Gambling Commission cancelled the licence for Brewers Bar.
The Trillian Trust lodged an appeal, and the Department of Internal Affairs confirmed that the appeal process was still incomplete, allowing the trust to keep the machines running.
The Auckland-based Trillian Trust has nine pokies in Brewers Bar at Victory Square.
Mr Goldsworthy said taskforce members were ‘‘delighted’’ with the Gambling Commission’s decision to deny the appeal.
Taskforce secretary Hester Phillips said pokies were ‘‘extremely addictive’’, especially when located in highly visible and accessible public places.
"We are extremely delighted that the Gambling Commission sought to place the values and wellbeing of a community above the interests of a business operating addictive and harmful pokie machines in the midst of a community." Trillian Trust chief executive Dean Agnew confirmed that the machines would have to be gone by next Friday, and that the trust was comfortable with their removal.
He said Trillian still felt the issue was not theirs or Brewers’ doing, but stemmed from poor procedure by the Nelson council.
"We are happy that this decision will make the rules clear for us and other trusts in the future around council consents.
"Trillian is still pleased to have supported the Nelson communities and will continue to do so through its trust activities in the region."
Mr Agnew said Trillian would look to install machines in the region again, if and when the council rules changed.
Neither Nelson Mayor Aldo Miccio nor Deputy Mayor Ali Boswijk could be reached for comment today. Councillor Pete Rainey said that while he could not comment on the commission’s decision, the issue went back to flaws in the process and was never an issue about pokie machines.
"It was never the intent of councillors to push that point. This has come about through flaws in the process which has been, and remains, a frustration for council. It’s an issue faced by all councils around the country," Mr Rainey said.
The taskforce expressed its gratitude to the lawyers who fought the case without remuneration, and the people who donated money and time during its street campaign.
- The Nelson Mail
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