New venue gets lucky

South Waikato News - - Front Page - LUKE KIRKEBY

An amal­ga­ma­tion of clubs in South Waikato will bring with it a mini­cas­ino of 30 gam­ing ma­chines, up­set­ting some in the Toko­roa CBD.

The venue is un­der con­struc­tion in the for­mer Q-mas­ters build­ing and is a merger of Pock­ets 8 Ball Club, The Olde Es­tab­lish­ment and the Pu­taruru District Ser­vices Me­mo­rial Club. Both of the lat­ter out­lets have been strug­gling to stay afloat in re­cent years but the merger will see staff re­tained.

The merger will also see the num­ber of pokie ma­chines in Toko­roa in­crease by three but the over­all num­ber in the South Waikato de­crease by six. The venue is un­der­go­ing a fit out and was ex­pected to open later this year.

The move has an­gered nearby busi­ness owner Lor­raine Young.

‘‘They are dump­ing un­prof­itable pokie ma­chines from Pu­taruru into a vul­ner­a­ble profit cen­tre. De­pri­va­tion in Toko­roa is as­so­ci­ated with fam­ily vi­o­lence, van­dal­ism, theft and home­less­ness,’’ she said.

The coun­cil has sup­ported the move de­spite the district hav­ing the fifth high­est spend per head on pokie ma­chines na­tion­ally. In the last 12 months that has equated to over $7 mil­lion in gam­bling losses.

South Waikato District Coun­cil en­vi­ron­men­tal health man­ager John An­der­son jus­ti­fied the coun­cil’s ap­proval for the new gam­ing venue, in Toko­roa’s Bridge St.

He ac­knowl­edged the ad­verse ef­fects but said the merger was in keep­ing with the coun­cil’s sink­ing lid pol­icy be­cause pokie ma­chine numbers would be re­duced over­all.

‘‘The coun­cil con­sid­ered a num­ber of fac­tors in grant­ing site ap­proval, not just sink­ing lid. Some of the other con­sid­er­a­tions were re­tain­ing em­ploy­ment for the staff work­ing at the clubs, the mem­ber’s wishes and sup­port for the merger, and that clubs of this na­ture con­trib­ute to so­cial well­be­ing of our com­mu­ni­ties,’’ An­der­son said.

‘‘The coun­cil con­sid­ered that on bal­ance. The ben­e­fits of the merger out­weighed the neg­a­tives.’’

He said while the coun­cil granted site ap­proval in 2015, the De­part­ment of In­ter­nal Af­fairs (DIA) pro­cessed the actual ap­pli­ca­tion for the op­er­a­tion.

‘‘No for­mal [pub­lic] con­sul­ta­tion was re­quired, how­ever mem­bers of all three clubs in­volved in the merger were aware of the pro­posal and unan­i­mously sup­port it,’’ he said.

Young said Bridge St must not lose its CBD fam­ily spa­ces char­ac­ter. ‘‘Gam­bling hotspots de­stroy a safe fam­ily en­vi­ron­ment,’’ she said.

She said pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion should have taken place.

Con­tin­ued Page 4.

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