Gambling policy for region revisited
What’s on in council this week
by Isaac Hughes
Tena koutou katoa
We are fast approaching the end of 2021, with just one round of meetings to go before the end of the year. It has been a particularly crammed year with numerous decisions made and still to be made. As a first-year councillor, I was exposed to almost every function of the council — with everything from a Representation Review to a Long-Term Plan adoption.
Last Thursday we spent several hours in a gambling policy workshop. This policy will guide how we treat gaming machines in this district. The council has limited mechanisms with which to control gaming machines. We currently have a sinking lid policy. This means no new machines with loss of venues or machines. The sinking lid policy had significantly reduced the number of pokie machines in the region, however the total money lost from the district has increased. The current local grant payout as a proportion of local money lost is about 8-10 percent. Whether gaming machines stay or go, it is vital we lobby for an increased grant allocation in our area.
We can all agree that gaming machines cause an array of social harms in our region.
Key to the policy discussion were how impacts of removal of gaming machines are managed.
Numerous not-for-profits in Tairawhiti rely heavily on gaming funding for operations and capital funding. These organisations have a positive community impact. Grants leverage volunteer time and resources to meet community needs. The money saved on pokies is unlikely to be donated to these organisations to the same extent.
Personally, I would also like to understand the degree to which gambling will divert to online forms with the removal of pokie machines. Online gambling does not tend to return money to the community and is more difficult to regulate.
Another consideration is the concentration of gaming machines. With a decrease in venues, gaming may be normalised due to more players per venue.
The proposed policy will be prepared by council staff. The draft policy will then be voted on by councillors at a later date.
Coming up on the council agenda this week is a Civil Defence meeting on Wednesday and a Sustainable Tairawhiti meeting on Thursday.
Some key decisions to be made include:
• Location of our emergency coordination centre
• Waka Kotahi/NZTA funding assistance reserves released for emergency flood work
• Dog control policy and bylaw review
• Governance options for our Tairawhiti Resource Management Plan review (TRMP).
We will also be voting on the the final representation review on November 4. This vote will determine the shape and structure of wards for the 2022 council elections. While I was unable to attend the hearings in person, I have read the submissions and watched the face-to-face presentations. The final vote is likely to be very close. Watch this space.