Tuakau residents upset over pokies decision

SHAUN EADE
Last updated 05:00 24/01/2014

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A Tuakau bar and grill has been granted consent for nine new gambling machines by two Waikato District councillors from outside of the area despite recommendations from its own staff to decline the application.

The decision has irritated members of the community and the Onewhero-Tuakau Community Board due to the lack of public consultation.

Scoundrel & Seadogs Bar and Grill, owned by John MacDonald, was granted consent to become the third place in Tuakau, along with the Tuakau Tavern and the Tuakau Cosmopolitan Club, to operate gambling machines by a hearing committee compromised by Hukanui-Waerenga Ward councillor Dynes Fulton and Whangamarino Ward councillor Jan Sedgwick on December 18.

According to the agenda of the initial December 10 Regulatory Subcommittee hearing, the council's environmental health team leader Alan Parkes had recommended the application be declined.

He said the proposal did not comply with the Franklin Gambling Venues policy because of its distance from a sensitive site, the Little Star Early Childcare and Education Centre, and because it caters for family dining.

He added that the council's legal advisor had also indicated that the application should be declined.

But in the minutes of the hearing, the panel said it was satisfied that there was enough separation between the family dining area and the gambling machines.

It said the effects on the childcare centre, which was located within the restricted 30m radius of the building, would be minimal and if the radius was measured from the entrance of the building it would have been outside of the zone.

Awaroa ki Tuakau councillor Jacqui Church said she was aware of the application but was not involved in the formal decision-making process.

Fellow Awaroa ki Tuakau councillor Lionel Petersen said he was unaware the consent had been granted and said he was not asked for his opinion of it.

"The decisions are made under delegated authority and the only time that I offer an opinion to these things is when a ratepayer approaches me and draws my attention to their concerns, and nobody has done such," he said.

Sue Duignan, Waikato District Council general manager customer support, said under the Gambling Act 2003, no public consultation was required.

She said that consultation with councillors was not part of the application process and there were no Tuakau councillors involved in the hearing because none were appointed to the Regulatory Subcommittee.

Onewhero-Tuakau Community Board chairman Ewen Gilmour said he had not heard or seen anything about the application until after it was approved.

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He said the community board should have been consulted.

"I think that this is a social issue, it is more than a business issue," he said.

"At a community board level, I think we are closer to the community than the councillors.

"I looked at the councillors [at the hearing] and I did not know any of them."

Board member Bronwyn Watson said she informed the council of her objections during the application process.

"When I heard [Mr MacDonald] was applying to put [the machines] in there, I rung the district council and said that we had enough in our small town and we did not need anymore," she said.

Fellow board member Richard Gee said the council should withdraw the consent until full public consultation has been carried out.

- Waikato Times

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