About a month ago, on 4th October, the VCGR handed down a landmark decision. After a lengthy application and assessment process, they rejected an application from Jan Juc’s Beach Hotel to install 30 poker machines. This was after Jan Juc’s council had already rejected a development proposal for the hotel, of which the poker machines were a key component.
I wrote about this decision at the time, but to recap briefly, this was a case of the community rising up to make their voice heard. Coordinating the town’s opposition to the proposed development was local Jeremy Ham, who created the Facebook group Don’t Poke Jan Juc. This group was instrumental in getting the people of Jan Juc organised against the proposal.
This was a long and sometimes bitter dispute, and it seemed in the end that, as had happened some time earlier in the township of Romsey, people power had won the day. But you just know that things are never that simple.
Two days ago, on 4th November, I received a message from Jeremy, through his Facebook group (of which I am a proud member). It seems that the Beach Hotel’s directors aren’t going to give up without a fight, despite the overwhelming community opposition to the introduction of pokies into Jan Juc. They’re appealing both decisions to VCAT, the Victorian Civil and Administrative Appeals tribunal. VCAT has the power to overrule both the rejected development proposal and the rejected pokie application, should it decide that such action is warranted.
Here is an excerpt from Jeremy’s message:
The directors of the Beach Hotel have not taken heed of the rejection of their pokies proposal at the VCGR, by the council and by the community. They will be taking the two decisions to reject the proposal to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Appeals tribunal (VCAT):
> An appeal against the unanimous rejection by SurfCoast Shire council planning committee on grounds of non-compliance with planning regulations (car parking, overlooking, height, pokies etc)
> The second VCAT appeal will try to challenge the decision by the gambling regulator (VCGR) that determined that the proposal would result is a net detriment to the community.
We know that the development proposal is simply inappropriate, and that these appeals are an act of defiance against a community, a council and a gambling regulator that has rejected the proposal. It is up to the council to defend their case in VCAT. We have obtained assurance from councillors that the council will allocate the resources required for this.
I get the impression that the Beach Hotel’s directors are going to try and call Jan Juc’s bluff. One of them, Mr Anthony Closter, recently suggested that they “might find it wiser to push the hotel over and build apartments,” with the implication that if they can’t bring in their pokies, then they’ll get rid of the town’s only pub.
This is pure spite and in my opinion, utter nonsense. They have already spent a considerable amount of time and money renovating the hotel to a very high standard; go to their web site and see for yourself. This place does not need pokies to be successful. The only pub in town, with style and class to spare (on the inside at least)… they’d be far better off working to become a part of the community, rather than trying to bring in poker machines that the majority of residents have stated that they don’t want.
But Closter doesn’t stop there. He bemoans the fact that despite Jan Juc being in one of the highest socio-economic regions in country Victoria, with the lowest density of poker machines per adult population, still their application was rejected. He even manages to draw the conclusion that this means that “they” (whoever “they” are) actually want to put pokies into lower socio-economic areas… that’s a long bow to draw, Anthony. It’s far more likely that “they” listened to the voice of the people of Jan Juc; a voice you obviously can’t hear.
The stupidest thing about this is that it’s not as if Jan Juc’s citizens are being “deprived” of pokies. There are two gaming venues in Torquay, less than 3 km away… a couple of minutes in the car, or on a nice day, a gentle walk. Jan Juc’s citizens don’t need more pokies; and the majority have said they don’t want more pokies.
So now the town of Jan Juc has to wait until July 2011 before they know once and for all what will happen, because that is when the VCAT hearing is scheduled. And until then, you can be sure that Jeremy Ham and all the members of Don’t Poke Jan Juc, as well as the local council, will do everything they can to make sure that VCAT makes the right decision, one more time.
What can you do? Visit the Don’t Poke Jan Juc group on Facebook, and if you want to support them in their fight, join up and make your voice heard. Email Jeremy, his details are all there. Naturally the local voices are the most important, but every email helps. Show the hotel, the town and VCAT that everyone thinks this is a bad idea.