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Balancing harms and benefits: At odds about region’s gambling rules

Wairarapa’s proposed new gambling policy aims to put greater restrictions on operators wanting to relocate venues, but temporary shifts could still be allowed.

The region’s councils will soon be asked to adopt a renewed combined gambling policy that would prevent the “permanent” relocation of gambling venues in Masterton under any circumstances.

The renewed policy differs from the draft that was consulted on for Masterton, with the word “permanent” added.

This wording would allow for the temporary relocation of gambling machines under extraordinary circumstances such as a fire, flood, or earthquake strengthening.

However, this change was fiercely opposed by Masterton councillor Tim Nelson who was one of several elected members involved in this week’s hearings and deliberations on the policy.

“If it’s by pure bad luck that a building is damaged and the numbers [of gambling venues] are reduced because of that, I would not support a means by which the numbers are retained,” he said.

“Perhaps more than anyone in this group, I’m aware of the impact of gambling on the community and individuals in the community… more than anyone.”

Nelson is a school principal who works with vulnerable families.

The amendment to the wording came after Trust House chief executive John Prendergast made a submission requesting temporary relocation be allowed.

Three other submitters also supported this.

Prendergast said he understood the intent of the policy and also supported the “sinking lid” approach the councils have taken on gaming machine numbers, but said temporary relocation of machines in the event of unforeseen circumstances should be permitted.

He also said it is in the community’s interest to have an organisation like Trust House managing alcohol and gambling.

“We minimise harm as far as we possibly and reasonably can and certainly over and above the requirements of the law”.

Other members of the hearings committee were Masterton councillor Craig Bowyer, Carterton councillors Robyn Cherry-Campbell and Steve Cretney, South Wairarapa’s acting mayor Melissa Saddler-Futter, and South Wairarapa councillor Martin Bosley.

Cherry-Campbell, who chaired the meeting, said although gambling is an emotive topic, “we need to remember to not bring our personal beliefs to this”.

Saddler-Futter agreed and commended Nelson on his “set values on gambling” but added that “it feels as though perhaps the genuine nature of consultation is not quite there because your values are so strongly held”.

Of 22 submitters that responded to the consultation regarding Masterton’s venue relocation policy, 16 supported the proposal as it stood [“that Class 4 Gambling Venues cannot relocate in Masterton under any circumstances”], and six supported a less restrictive venue relocation policy, including Trust House.

The current Wairarapa-wide gambling policy allows the relocation of existing gambling venues in extraordinary circumstances if councils reasonably believe the proposed location will not have adverse effects on the character of the district or on any kindergartens, early childhood centres, schools, places of worship, or other community facilities.

Under the policy that will soon go to councils for adoption, gaming venues would now not be allowed to “permanently relocate” in Masterton, and also not be allowed to relocate to Carterton and South Wairarapa’s most deprived areas [those on the New Zealand Deprivation Index of decile 9 or 10] if the proposed location is outside of a town centre.

According to New Zealand Deprivation Index data, the only areas in Carterton and South Wairarapa districts that are Decile 9 or 10 are in Featherston.

The renewed policy would also clearly state that no additional gaming machines would be granted consent, consistent with the sinking lid approach in Wairarapa, and no standalone TAB venues may be established.

The policy will go to Carterton District Council for adoption on May 1 and Masterton and South Wairarapa councils on May 8.

– NZLDR

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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