EVEN dry legalese could not quite conceal the profound effect of the eight crucial words – ”the application for premises approval has been refused” – at the heart of Thursday’s decision by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal to block the proposed installation of 65 poker machines in Castlemaine. It is a victory for community values and a sharp poke in the eye for the pokies brigade…
Mr Dwyer … describing community attitudes as ”one of the pivotal issues in this case”. Although he is careful to say his decision is in no way ”a referendum on gaming machines”, he describes the Castlemaine dispute as ”almost unique [given] the range and intensity of that community opposition” (his italics). ”It is not just ‘noise’ – a term MHS’ counsel used – from a group of vocal individuals … it is deserving of greater weight than might ordinarily be given to ‘normal’ levels of opposition to … proposals of this nature or scale.”
In other words, and without exceeding his brief, Mr Dwyer has neatly acknowledged community concern as a vital ingredient. In doing so, he stresses the importance of human values, saying communal happiness and wellbeing would be adversely affected by the proposal. Also at risk, he concludes, is the social character of Castlemaine. He is also at times critical of MHS, saying the group supplied ”little expert or objective material to assess the social impacts of the proposal”.
The upshot is that public protest can make a difference where it counts. A small town has found its voice. Now other concerned communities should follow suit.
Opinion, The Age, February 15, 201