moyne shire leads the way

They’re doing something right in the Shire of Moyne. Maybe it’s the beautiful scenery, or the unspoiled townships… or maybe it’s just an outbreak of common sense. Whatever the case, Moyne Shire is currently pokie-free, and they want to keep it that way.

Last week, I wrote about the manager and owner of The Victoria Hotel in Port Fairy, who had gone on the record as saying that poker machines were not on their agenda. The manager, Steve Greenwood, went so far as to say that the Vic would never have pokies as long as he was associated with the place.

And earlier this week, I wrote about people power in Port Fairy. The locals organised and held a rally to demonstrate their opposition to poker machines, and to reaffirm that they don’t want them in their shire… ever.

And now, the Moyne Shire Council have also stepped up to the plate. As reported this morning, they’ve commissioned a study to support their anti-pokies stance. The study will include a community survey, and the council intend to use it as evidence should they ever have to fight a proposal to bring poker machines to their shire.

All of this, and the reality is that no one is currently proposing to create a pokies venue in the shire. Overkill? Absolutely not!

Let’s look at recent history. The Macedon Ranges Shire Council and the people of Romsey had to fight long and hard to keep pokies out of their town. Their fight took them all the way to the Supreme Court and cost around $650,000, but they got there in the end.

Surf coast townlet Jan Juc is currently fighting a proposal to bring poker machines to their town. Hampered by an ineffective local council, the people of Jan Juc have taken it upon themselves to carry on the fight, and have used Facebook and YouTube as part of their strategy. They’re fighting hard, but they haven’t won yet.

In truth, what the Moyne Shire Council is doing is insuring their future. Should anyone ever propose to establish a gambling venue anywhere in the shire, they won’t have to scramble around for evidence supporting their anti-pokies stance… they’ll already have it. And this kind of study, professionally conducted and presented, is exactly the kind of supporting evidence needed to prove their case. When you add it to the people-driven evidence, such as a petition that was presented at the afore-mentioned rally with over 1000 signatures… well, it’s a pretty compelling case.

I understand that two Moyne Shore councillors voted against the study, saying it cost too much and was putting “the cart before the horse”. The cost of the study, incidentally, is $25,000. To them, I say compare this cost against the $650,000 that was spent fighting to keep pokies out of Romsey. And as for horses… well, waiting for a poker machine application to appear before taking action (as was suggested by Cr Jim Doukas) is more like shutting the gate after the horse has bolted. You had better believe that anyone hoping to set up a gambling venue will hire the best lawyers and will spend much, much more than $25,000 on their case.

Thankfully the other five councillors voted in favour of the study. Now the Shire of Moyne will be well positioned to fight any attempts to bring poker machines into their community. And the people of Mayne can continue to enjoy the pokie-free lifestyle they so clearly want.

My only hope is that other local governments take notice of this. Don’t want pokies? Then prepare for the worst… don’t be caught napping.

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