by Denise Roche
Last week’s win for the community of Victory, who finally rid themselves of pokies in their local bar, is an example of what can be achieved when a community takes action.
The Victory community is a lower socio-economic area of Nelson but is a community development success story with activities centred around the Victory Community Centre.
The community was moved to action when Nelson City Council approved a license for Auckland-based Trillian Trust to install 9 pokie machines in the Victory Square Brewers Bar, which is near a school, kindergarten and playground. The community fought back, setting up the Nelson Gambling Taskforce and taking the council to the High Court to demand the removal of the machines. The High Court backed them up and the Department of Internal Affairs cancelled the pokie bar’s license in November, but Trillain Trust lodged an appeal with the Gambling Commission and under the law the bar could continue to operate the machines until the case is heard.
Last week Trillian Trust’s case was denied and the machines were turned off on Friday and are set to be removed.
While the community of Victory can celebrate their win now, this case highlights the flaws in the current laws that allow councils to develop weak gambling policies and issue licenses against the will of the community and the crazy anomaly of pokie bars being able to continue to operate their machines while they appeal their cases.
The Flavell Bill – the Gambling (Gambling Harm Reduction) Bill which is set down to hear submissions next month gives communities and councils more power to reduce or even eliminate pokies from neighbourhoods, as well as outlining measures for a fairer system for the distribution of funds from pokies and also contains harm-reduction provisions.
It’s heartening to hear today that Auckland Council is supporting the bill. Here’s hoping that other communities wont have to struggle as hard as Victory to rid themselves of pokies.