The little town of Jan Juc on Victoria’s surf coast is a quiet place for much of the year. There aren’t many people, and there certainly aren’t any pokies. Neighbouring Torquay has always had more than enough to make up for that.
So when the local Beach Hotel lodged an application for 30 poker machines, it sparked a wave of community protest not seen since Romsey went to the Supreme Court to keep pokies out of their town. And today, the people of Jan Juc won their battle. The VCGR handed down their decision on the Beach Hotel’s application, and for the first time in 2010, they said no.
This is a massive decision. The fight against pokies in Jan Juc was played out in part in the usual way, with lawyers and the local council getting involved. But much of the campaign was driven by the public, and took place online. Local architect Jeremy Ham started up the Facebook group “Don’t Poke Jan Juc“, and it became the hub of Jan Juc’s anti-pokie movement.
Letter-writing campaigns, appeals, sharing of information… these were all publicised and/or coordinated through the Facebook group. And Ham committed countless hours over several months to ensure the group stayed alive, stayed focused, stayed true.
The VCGR’s media release regarding the decision can be found here; but here’s a couple of telling comments from the release:
“The VCGR said it was persuaded by a council phone survey that
showed 64 per cent of respondents supported development of the hotel, but
this dropped to 17 per cent when they learned this would include machines.”
“The VCGR said residents of both Romsey and Jan Juc expressed a
strong view that their townships’ distinct character would be impaired by
machines. Jan Juc had resisted change to the character of its neighbourhood
and retail centre.”
So in the end, the VCGR based their decision on the overwhelming will of the people. Despite the fact that the Surf Coast Shire is considered to be financially well-off on average, and the fact that average spending on poker machines in the shire is well below the state average, it was the considerable community opposition, well organised and relentless, that saved the day.
Congratulations to you Jeremy, and the residents of Jan Juc. Today you have won a famous victory.