Who said that one voice can’t be heard? Not Susan Rennie, that’s for sure. Rennie, a Preston resident, was the sole objector to a proposal to put poker machines in the Stolberg Beer Cafe hotel… and she won.
I’ve written about the Stolberg Beer Cafe hotel before, in the context of apparent shenanigans in the Darebin LGA. It seemed strange to me that Darebin, regionally-capped and with a full allotment of machines, could approve yet another venue several months before the Gaming Entitlement auction in May 2010… and then find that the Stolberg was able to buy the required number of licences when the auction was finally held.
There’s another dodgy aspect to this situation. Darebin Council has been putting in place a tough, no-compromise pokie policy; yet the Stolberg pokie application was approved by one man, without any consultation with any other member of the council. Apparently there was a rule that allowed this to happen, which has since been scrapped. But rather than recognise that an error had been made, the council stood by the decision, even though it flew in the face of everything they were trying to do.
That’s where Susan Rennie comes in. Once the council refused to change their minds, she took them and their decision to VCAT, on the grounds that the venue was an inappropriate pokie location, given its proximity to health services and public housing, and the fact that Preston was already saturated with pokie venues.
It didn’t matter that Rennie’s was the sole voice raising this objection; VCAT agreed with her and overturned Darebin Council’s decision.
The craziest thing about this whole mess is that, although the council acknowledged that a mistake had been made, and took steps to ensure it wouldn’t happen again, they still fronted up to VCAT to defend the decision. Madness.
Congratulations Susan Rennie; you’ve done Preston a favour, and you’ve done yourself proud.