Kāpiti Pokies Policy draws Fire

Kāpiti Districtwide Cr Jackie Elliott says councillors are given considerable legislative powers to make meaningful social change for our most vulnerable in the community. “So when yet another opportunity is wasted due to a lack of positive leadership it is heartbreaking,” she says.

“I hope the public carefully considers the true colours exposed in the KCDC meeting yesterday when council voted to adopt a new Class 4 Gambling Policy and T.A.B. Venue Gambling Policy.

“Four options were presented, ranging from Option A) no change to the current caps to Option D) that would not allow any new machines, any new venues or any relocations of machines in the district.

Cr Elliott says Ōtaki, one of the districts lowest socio-economic areas has 61 Pokie Machines in four separate venues, while only 42 are allowed under the current caps. There are 131 other pokie machines in eight more venues across the district, slightly less than the current caps.

She says 79 percent of submissions received were opposed to any increase on the cap and most supported lowering it by a sliding cap and tighter restrictions.

“Twelve people spoke to their submissions, and it was truly eye-opening to hear firsthand of the ways those close to problem gamblers are affected. With many children daily going without adequate food, school lunches, school trips or the ability to join and play sports. They are begging, they are going without adequate clothing, shoes and bedding resulting in compromised health. This is daily life for so many of our families and those dependent on, or caring for problem gamblers, right across our district,”says Cr Elliott.

“This council, like any other, had the opportunity to make a special request to the Governor General for permission to reduce the number of Pokie machines, to reduce social harm. But I was disappointed that at all discussions this option was ignored, as my colleagues largely debated semantics instead and this opportunity was completely overlooked.

“I was really disappointed at the outcome yesterday, I couldn’t even recommend the stricter Option D, which I had a seconder for, as the Mayor (Chairing the meeting), ignored my request to make a recommendation, and had pre arranged for a less restrictive, slightly amended option B), to be voted on. The chair also allowed the staff to rewrite the new choice into the agenda paper by staff before the debate was even started,” says Cr Elliott.

In ignoring the wishes of 79 percent of submitters, those voting in favour were Crs Vinning, Michael Scott, Cardiff and Benton. Crs Buswell, Cootes and myself voted against it and the Mayor used his deciding vote to vote in favour.”

Cr Elliott says a further recommendation, also magically pre written before even being suggested, asked council to lobby for the Pokie Machine industry to return ‘more’ pokie funds back into the district.

“This is weak considering the actual ‘return’ quoted by industry submitters 35% – 40% of funds could have been inserted into the recommendation. In Ōtaki only 6% ‘return’ to local sports groups could be identified by submitters, while over a quarter of a million dollars was pumped into Ōtaki machines alone, in a 3 month period.”

She says the ongoing impact of this loss to our families’ incomes is plain to see. The meeting was over within 35 minutes.

NOTE: Cr Janet Holborow was an apology for this meeting