Archive:   Pokies

Last Updated  7/10/11




Kyneton Bowling Club Pokies

Kyneton RSL Pokies

Macedon Ranges Shire

Amendment C64








Council Asks For Your Comments On VicTavern Application For More Pokies In Gisborne

(14/10/06)  Responses to be in by 24 October - please make your views known.

Council is about to make a submission to the Victorian Commission for Gambling Regulation (VCGR) on this application. For more information, click here to see the letter MRRA received and contact points about where to send your comments.  You can also check in local papers or go to Council's website (


MRRA Says:

Pokies are increasingly acknowledged as a scourge on society, but current State government policy is pushing these machines into communities that don't want them.  Have your say!   MRRA commends Council for seeking public views on this application.


Gisborne Under The Pump Again As Victorian Tavern Applies For 6 More Pokies

(13/8/06 - P)  Not much detail yet, but with more machines looming in Kyneton and Romsey, here we go again - in Gisborne this time...

An application has been lodged with the Victorian Commission for Gambling Regulation by Hilldove Pty Ltd asking for 6 more poker machines, which would bring the total up to 42.  Pokies at the Vic Tavern were increased by 6 (from 30 to 36) in December 2001 in a close decision by the then Victorian Casino and Gaming Authority.  Click here to see that decision.  Click here for more information about Victorian Tavern and Hilldove Pty Ltd.




Kyneton Bowling Club Pokies


Is It True?  Hot Rumours Going Around That Kyneton Bowling Club xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

(24/4/09 - C)  Wheels falling off this flawed project? 

Please note:  This item has been modified to comply with a request from Garland, Hawthorn Brahe Lawyers acting for Kyneton Bowling Club

In breaking news, there are rumours flying all around Kyneton tonight.  One is that the Kyneton Bowling Club xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx.  If that is the case, the Club's woes may not stop there.  Another rumour is that the permit issued by Heritage Victoria which allows the Bowling Club to occupy part of the historical Kyneton Mechanics' Institute area has expired and the Club may need to apply for a new permit.  Wait, there's more...  It seems the file relating to the Bowling Club's lease of Crown land, which it occupies for both its bowling greens and its pokies venue, is on the Minister for Planning's desk.  Jumpin' Jehosephat!   Anything else?  Is it a case of being careful what you wish for?   We will work on getting confirmation or otherwise...  Click here to see MRRA's Kyneton Mechanics' Institute file.


Is It True?  Is Kyneton Bowling Club Looking For Financial Help From Council?

(12/7/07 - C)  If rumour is right, KBC may be running out of money, and wanting Council to bankroll completion of pokies' venue

The drums in Kyneton are saying all may not be well with the Kyneton Bowling Club and its 'Taj Mahal-like' new pokie venue. Objectors argued it wouldn't be viable, and if the drums are on the mark, they may just be right.


Rumour has it that the Club is losing members, and may be in a jam financially.  The story goes that the KBC may have made an unsuccessful trip to the bank, may have asked for an extension of time to complete the project, could be looking at an extra (unbudgeted) six-figure sum for a major electricity substation upgrade, and may now be looking for Council to help out financially to get the pokies palace off the ground.  That the main focus of the Bowling Club is its pokies operations was confirmed by the restructuring of the Club at its recent AGM to replicate and operate like other pokie businesses - with a Board, rather than a committee of management. 


Despite a recent PR blurt announcing an opening within a couple of weeks, at best it seems only part of the venue (pokies, of course) will be operational at that time.  So where are the community facilities that were held up by some Councillors to justify approving this development?


MRRA Says:


This proposal has been a total wreck looking for a place to happen ever since it was first launched in the late 1990s, back in the days when Prue Mansfield was CEO, and Crs. Noel Harvey, Geoff Neil and John Letchford were on Council the first time around.  Many say it's an obvious example of opportunism and favouritism - a takeover of public land for a private business venture - that should never have seen the light of day. 


So far, wouldn't it be reasonable (if not an under-statement) to say that the Kyneton Bowling Club has had an embarrassment of 'favours' from Council, at ratepayers' expense?  Let's see: 


It operates its pokies on public land, and for this proposal, took over even more of the historic Kyneton Mechanics' Institute Reserve (and destroyed some stately trees) to accommodate its new building - so we can safely say it didn't have the expense of buying land to expand its operations. 


It was Council that applied for and picked up the tab for planning permit approvals, including 2 VCAT hearings (remember the $50,000-odd costs Council claimed and attempted to recover from the community last year for just one of these VCAT hearings?)


Then there is the $1 million that Council is borrowing in this year's budget to overhaul the Kyneton Mechanics' Institute, required by Heritage Victoria in its consent to and conditions for the pokies' development.


The Bowling Club got another lucky break when Council decided to reduce initial lease costs to help it 'over the hump' of establishing the new venue. 


Then there is the mystery of who-paid-for-what for a new library, playground and toilets because the new pokie venue either destroyed or impacted on the existing facilities. 


As yet, we haven't been told who paid the reportedly substantial costs ($300,000?) for mistakes in the approved plans which saw construction halted because the wrong floor levels were being used to build the structure.  Whew!  


And that's without all the energy, time and money objectors put into fighting this, Council staff time, plus the inconvenience and loss of public amenity for the wider community.


How hypocritical would Council look if it now handed over more ratepayers' money and/or resources to try to keep this ill-conceived project afloat, particularly when at the same time it is spending at least $40,000 (some say closer to $50,000) to keep pokies out of Romsey? 


If Council genuinely doesn't support pokies, it shouldn't support refurbishing pokie venues either.  How can it justify what it has already handed over to the Kyneton Bowling Club?  And, if the rumours circulating in Kyneton are true, how could it possibly justify handing over any more?   Wouldn't any Councillor who supported 'more' deserve being voted out of office at the next election, in just 18 months' time?


Two current Councillors (Noel Harvey and John Connor) were actively supported by the Kyneton Bowling Club during the November, 2005 Council election campaign, when the Club wrote to its members encouraging them to vote for these Councillors. It could perhaps be said the newly-elected Councillors seemed to return the favour when they solidly supported approving the controversial pokies venue proposal in December, 2005.  That decision was reached on a 5 to 4 split vote, so the Councillors who are responsible for moving this mess forward are Noel Harvey, Helen Relph, John Letchford, Geoff Neil and John Connor. 


Crs. Rob Guthrie, Henry Bleeck, Sandra Mc Gregor and Tom Gyorffy voted against it. 


NOTE:  MRRA understands that a submission has been made on the Kyneton Bowling Club/Kyneton Mechanics' Institute debacle to the Victorian Upper House parliamentary inquiry into the use (and abuse) of public land.  Can we at last look forward to some scrutiny and accountability being applied to this unholy episode?  Mmm... lovely thought, isn't it?


Kyneton Bowling Club: Objectors Speak Out About Council Attempting To Recoup Costs

(8/9/06 - C)  Letter from objectors puts their side of the story forward

They've kept their cards close until now but residents who took Council to VCAT, to establish whether Council could meet permit conditions for parking, are now speaking out.  MRRA has received a letter from Michael Kennedy, legal representative for the objectors.  Click here to see it.


Power To The People!  Council To Settle Instead Of Sue On Kyneton Bowling Club Pokies Case

(28/8/06 - C)  Community concerns persuade some Councillors to have two-bob each way  STOP PRESS:   MRRA HAS NOW HAD CONFIRMATION THAT THE CASE HAS BEEN SETTLED BY CONSENT WITH BOTH PARTIES BEARING THEIR OWN COSTS.

It was late at last Wednesday's Council meeting when Councillors who voted for the Bowling Club proposal last December (and Cr. Bleeck) decided to bite the bullet and endorse settling of the costs case between Council and members of the community.  A Notice of Motion proposed by Mayor Geoff Neil (East ward) originally said "That Council endorse the actions of the Chief Executive in pursuing the recovery of costs associated with the case of KMI Inc vs Macedon Ranges Shire Council, 61 - 81 Mollison Street, Kyneton."   The Mayor explained concerns had been raised that the Chief Executive couldn't pursue costs and the sole reason for the motion was to allow him to do so. However, more than the original motion was finally approved.  Cr. Noel Harvey (West) proposed, and Cr. John Connor (West) seconded an amended motion, that the words "however having regard to concerns of the local community the Chief Executive be asked to settle the matter" be added.  Cr. John Letchford (South) objected "for the purposes of debate".  Crs. Guthrie (South), Gyorffy (West) and McGregor (East) appeared surprised at this turn of events. Cr. Tom Gyorffy (West) asked what the limits of settlement would be.  Cr. Rob Guthrie (South) likewise said he didn't understand how the matter would be settled and asked of the Mayor, was Council saying each party meets their own costs or was 'settlement' somewhere between zero and $58,000?  Both Councillors were told the motion was simply an endorsement of the act of settling. 


The motion as amended was carried with support from Crs. Harvey, Connor, Neil, Letchford, Relph and Bleeck.   Crs. Gyorffy, Guthrie and McGregor opposed (apparently on the basis that the motion still endorsed the initial action of pursuing costs, and did not state what the settlement would be).


Cr. Noel Harvey said it was within the CE's power to take action and he had done the right things; he supported what had been done.  The issue is important and it was perfectly appropriate for Council to take this position.  He commented it was fine to say 'respond to the community', clearly actions taken were ill-conceived but Council was perfectly within its rights to pursue costs.  A lot of people said throw the book at objectors, why should we bear the costs, but there will be no winners except the legal people. He said anyway he was getting positive feedback now the project was underway; move on.  Cr. Tom Gyorffy said the motion was vague.  At VCAT the principle is each party bear their own costs. That can be changed for enforcements under certain circumstances, but none of those were present in this case.  Another aspect is that in this case Council is the permit-holder (not the responsible authority), and so the community took the case to the umpire (VCAT) against the permit-holder.  He added that if ever there was a case to leave each to bear own costs, this is it.  The community has concerns about being bullied by Council.  Cr. Gyorffy asked the meeting to authorize a specific offer, to accept an offer that had been circulated.  Cr. Henry Bleeck (East) said he opposed taking the case any further; it was time to bury the hatchet.  Pursuing only adds to the pain.  There would be no winners, and there wouldn't be any gain without pain if Council went down the path it was pursuing.  Cr. Sandra Mc Gregor (East) said the CE should settle the matter but at no extra costs - there should be no more ratepayer money spent chasing ratepayer money.  Mayor Geoff Neil (East) said he was bending, bending a lot, in agreeing to the amendment.  He said a little sarcastically that he loved the word 'community' and how some people thought everyone supported the one position.  There were a substantial number of people who preferred Council went to VCAT and claim costs; Council had already spent a substantial amount pursuing the case, and there are a substantial number who want costs recovery.  He said he would support motion as amended.   


Here's Justice Stuart Morris' brief VCAT ruling on a case in June where a party tried to obtain costs incurred after the Minister for Planning was over-ruled by VCAT.   What chance do you think Council had?


MRRA Says:

The Mayor was positively white around the lips as he announced he was 'bending'.   If our understanding is correct, Council received an offer from objectors to settle with each party to bear its own costs, although it wasn't clear this is the course Council would take, and which is one reason why three Councillors (Guthrie, Gyorffy and McGregor) opposed the motion.  It has now been confirmed that the settlement is 'each bear their own costs'.


MRRA agrees with Cr. McGregor's view that Council pursuing costs would have sent more good money after bad.  Council undoubtedly has a responsibility to spend our money wisely.  But there is more than one way to do that.  Perhaps if regard had been had to this principle at the outset - if Council had prepared the parking plan required in the permit conditions before it put an inadequate number of parking spaces on the ground, and if Council had been up-front with the community about the difficulties it faced, it could have avoided spending $58,000 trying to justify its position in the first instance.   We understand Council's costs comprise hiring a QC and entourage to represent Council at VCAT (why?), and having consultants prepare not one but several parking plans (already a permit requirement, why consultants, and why so many plans?).  The project seems set to become even more of a 'money pit' with reports this week that Council may be facing action over breaches of contract relating to construction delays primarily due to disputes about the building levels (MRRA understands work is still stopped), and it's a six-figure amount.  How different things might have been if just one of the Councillors who voted last December to go ahead with this project (Crs. Geoff Neil, John Letchford, John Connor, Noel Harvey, Helen Relph) had voted the other way.  One of these Councillors told an MRRA rep on the night, 'people will accept a bad decision, they won't accept no decision'.  MRRA totally rejects that philosophy, and suspects most residents would too.  But if this damaging philosophy is underpinning Council's decision-making, it would certainly explain why so many bad decisions are being made.


MRRA hears on the grapevine that Cr. John Letchford has been ringing community members and claiming credit for the settlement.  Mmm, is this another of those quick changes of mind some associate with John?  Our mail is that Cr Letchford was, up till Wednesday, telling people that pursuing ($160,000?) costs was the right thing to do.  Meteoric, and mercurial?


Macedon Ranges Hits "Rock Bottom" As Council Sues Community Over Kyneton Bowling Club Parking

(15/8/06 - C)  Hey, don't stop there: go after the reportedly $50,000 Council has spent keeping pokies out of Romsey as well!

Macedon Ranges Shire Council has hit 'rock bottom'.  It is suing its community.  We haven't seen anything like it since two Council officers tried to sue then Councillor Neil Manning for defamation back in Prue Mansfield's days as CEO (pre-2000).  In this latest drama, the players will assemble at VCAT on September 1st.  Council is demanding costs from Kyneton residents who dared exercise their legal rights and challenged Council's ability to provide the parking required for the Kyneton Bowling Club's expanded pokies venue.  At the time of the challenge (around March this year) Council had yet to produce a car parking plan for the development. This week's Guardian newspaper put the figure Council wants at $58,000 although there are rumours Council has offered to settle for $45,000.  Both of these figures fall well short of the $160,000 costs trumpeted by Mayor Geoff Neil and others around the time Council decided to raise our rates (at least we now know that wasn't why our rates went up).  And who can forget the verbal bollocking the Mayor and Crs. Noel Harvey and John Letchford gave Crs. Guthrie and Gyorffy over their appearance as witnesses at the VCAT hearing on the Bowling Club parking issue?  That hearing found Kyneton residents had not proven Council was not capable of providing the car parking spaces needed for the development to go ahead, even if Council has to stoop to part-time spaces, parking over the school crossing when it's not being used, and usurping the greengrocer's loading bay to conjure up, on paper, the necessary car spaces.


MRRA Says:

Surely Council doesn't think it's on a winner here, does it?   From where MRRA is sitting, Council's on a hiding to nothing.  It won't win, even if a miracle occurs and it does get costs from VCAT.   Taking Council on seems to have put some Council noses mightily out of joint.  Some say what's happening is payback for daring to challenge, daring to call Council to account;  others see it as a bit of a testosterone-charged 'pissing contest', with the community as the wall. 


What MRRA sees is a Council so besotted with its own power and image of itself, it thinks it can do whatever it pleases. Someone thinks this is about letting people know 'who is boss', so all you other whingers, nosey-parkers and assorted 'troublemakers' out there, take heed - it could happen to you!  That's the message Council thinks it's putting across.  But it's not.  It's showing the contempt it hold its community in.  And from the growls we're picking up around the community traps, it's a sentiment that is fully reciprocated.


MRRA would like to know who authorized Council paying for a QC (or was that a raft of them?), and several consultant reports on parking, for the hearing earlier this year.  It didn't come to open Council for authorization, and we aren't aware of it even being discussed in camera.  We'd also like to know who conjured up the $160,000 costs, when those 'costs' didn't, and never will, exist.  Then we'd like to know who authorized taking the community on for costs (and racking up some more up for Council in the process).  That wasn't decided in open Council either. 


Of course, we expect Council to treat everyone who challenges its wisdom the same way, and to take all comers on for costs.  How about developers who go to VCAT, people who apply for poker machines, Ministers or panels who say no?  There is only one rule for everyone, isn't there?


So what happens if costs are awarded to the community?   Guess we will be looking for a new Council - and not before time..


Troubled Times For Ratepayers As Work Grinds To A Stop On Kyneton Bowling Club Project

(31/7/06 - C)  Is it Murphy's Law or the No Care, No Responsibility principle at work on this ill-fated development?

What's going on at the Kyneton Mechanics Institute reserve?  There it is: mature trees down, playground gone, toilets gone, KMI kitchen gone, half the Bowling Club premises gone.  And now work has stopped.  Rumours are red hot in Kyneton that there's plenty going wrong with this project, and that there might be chunky cost implications for Macedon Ranges' residents.  First off, MRRA has heard that when the iron roof was removed from the to-be-demolished 'kitchen' at the rear of the KMI, wooden shingles hidden beneath it were exposed.  It has been suggested that part of the 'kitchen' may once have been a caretaker's room, possibly associated with the KMI itself.  Now we will never know because the whole lot was demolished.  Then it seems one of the workmen lifted the carpet in part of the KMI building and went through the floor, which is rotten.  Some in Kyneton previously expressed concern about watering (over-watering?) of the adjacent bowling green and potential for damage to the KMI building, so it's going to be interesting to learn why the floor gave way.  Reports are that much of the KMI flooring is now likely to need replacing.  At whose cost?   But what finally stopped the work are the building levels.  It seems the levels shown on drawings of the new Bowling Club building aren't quite right.  And the argument is, who's going to pay to fix it.  Why are the levels such a big deal?  As MRRA understands it, Heritage Victoria weren't happy with the bulk and height of the original proposal, and required it to be reduced.  It seems the finally approved Bowling Club building represents a fine line between what the Council and Bowling Club wanted, and what Heritage Victoria was prepared to accept.


MRRA Says:

'Oops' doesn't quite cover it, and it's unlikely 'sorry' will do either.  Perhaps 'dog's breakfast'... 


Unconfirmed reports suggest there's a major bun-fight between (variously) the builder/architect, Council and the Bowling Club over who will wear costs on this one.  Mayor Geoff Neil is quoted in this week's Guardian newspaper as saying Council and the Bowling Club will "absorb" costs for fixing the levels problem.  Just a minute, Mr. Mayor!   Before wading in with yet another off-the-cuff remark, perhaps thought should be given to whether one Councillor, albeit a Mayor, is empowered to make executive decisions on how our money is spent, particularly on a controversial project supported by that Councillor.  MRRA feels most residents would prefer a touch of transparency and accountability brought to this issue.  An explanation of why this project keeps going wrong and how Council got in this situation would be a good start, followed closely by some community consultation, and a debate and vote by ALL Councillors in open Council chamber.


KMI Shock:  Council Begins Works For Pokies But Minister for Planning Hasn't Signed Off On Lease!

(10/6/06 - C)  Council has already torn down beautiful trees, torn up the children's playground and fenced the community out of the KMI reserve. But without a signed lease, aren't these works illegal?

Amid verbal attacks on Councillor colleagues, calls and counter-calls for resignations at Clown Town Hall, and Crs. Letchford, Harvey and Neil berating or wrongly accusing Crs. Guthrie and Gyorffy of being parties to a VCAT hearing challenging Council's ability to provide required parking, it seems the miserable saga of the Kyneton Bowling Club's pokie venue extension has just been shunted from pantomime to farce. 


It seems Council may well and truly have jumped the gun - not only has MRRA heard the lease hasn't been signed by the Minister but also that Heritage Victoria only signed off on their permit about a week ago.  Yet Council started works with (indecent) haste about three weeks ago, almost before the ink dried on the VCAT decision that said Council could (somehow) find the required parking.


As well as Council now having to work out the legal and financial niceties of "where to from here?", and deal with calls now being made for a full-blown investigation, this latest twist also exposes the nonsense of claims from some Councillors that the community's challenge at VCAT had slugged ratepayers $160,000 in legal costs and construction delays (and would therefore result in rate increases for us all).


MRRA Says:

We've already said "Beam us up, Scottie" so, er, what do we say now?   Look closely at these shenanigans: what we have seen being played out here looks like a poorly-crafted piece of political payback which has now backfired nicely.


We hear Kyneton residents who were attacked as having 'diminished democracy' in exercising their democratic right to go to VCAT, and for supposedly racking up big costs for Council (and ratepayers), are furious and hell-bent on getting a public apology, and we can't say we blame them. 


It's also going to be interesting to watch who will now get the blame for rate rises - make no mistake, rates will go up (they have in surrounding Shires).  The key will be by how much, and for what...


But the really big issue before the Macedon Ranges' community is Council's behaviour.  Only six months into their term, some of our 'experienced' Councillors have distinguished themselves for all the wrong reasons.  People are talking (and laughing) about what's going on here all over the State. 


MRRA is looking for your feedback:

What are your views on the way Councillors John Letchford, Noel Harvey and Geoff Neil (and/or others) have behaved?  Should they resign?

How much more bad Councillor behaviour should be tolerated before calling on the State government to intervene and/or suspend the Council?

Send us your comments by email on


Council In Uproar With Claim Of Recycled "Bullies" Trying To Take Control

(30/5/06 - E)  Cr. Tom Gyorffy calls for Mayor (Geoff Neil) and Crs Noel Harvey and John Letchford to resign

It has been a fairly tempestuous week in local politics, but the explosion has been brewing since Council elections last November. Cr. Geoff Neil, whom MRRA called on in March to resign as Mayor and who has built something of a reputation for putting a foot or two in his mouth since he was re-elected, went full on into Councillors Guthrie and Gyorffy at last week's Council meeting, suspending standing orders to do so.  It seems the Mayor, Cr.Noel Harvey and Cr. John Letchford were fairly adamant that the two 'G's (Guthrie and Gyorffy) are responsible for a cost (?) of $160,000 to Council because they were supposedly parties to a recent enforcement hearing at VCAT.  The hearing was instigated by a community group contesting Council's ability to provide sufficient parking spaces to meet VCAT requirements for the Kyneton Bowling Club pokies expansion.  Seems the Council triumvirate were fairly set on trying to put those two 'upstarts' very publicly back in their places - that is, on the outer and outside the circle of power at Council.  It's just a pity one or the other of the aggressors didn't check their facts before lurching into it. 


For example, Crs. Guthrie and Gyorffy were actually called as witnesses at VCAT (i.e. they weren't 'parties' to the hearing); the Mayor's version of 'costs' apparently includes compensation to Council for losses incurred through delays to construction claimed to have been caused by the VCAT hearing (the only problem with that is Council only got the green light from Minister Hulls and Heritage Victoria to go ahead a week or so ago -  well after the VCAT decision was handed down). 


It's also a pity those behaving as if they were the Three Musketeers didn't duplicate Cr. Guthrie's concern for behaving in a manner more redolent of the Councillor's Code of Conduct.  Or is that just so much paper?


MRRA Says:


Beam us up, Scottie...


Now let's see:  Is a Council chamber a place where Councillors who aren't liked by grand-standing self-proclaimed powerbrokers and/or control fiends go to be baited and berated? 


Are some of our Councillors trying to take Council back to the horrible ways it was (in)famous for before some of our present Councillors were thrown out by the people in 2003?  Are we back in 2002 when a former Councillor publicly criticized Noel Harvey for bullying?   Do we have a 'kitchen cabinet' operating, as was suspected back in the dark old days when some of our present representatives were last Councillors?  Are decisions made behind closed doors at afternoon briefing sessions by whoever happens to attend? 


Is this where democracy is at in Macedon Ranges?  Is this where you want it to be?


Some members of this 'new' Council have already 'distinguished' themselves by blaming Gisborne residents for over-development at Helensville; is the community again to be blamed for everything the majority of our Councillors get wrong? 


Are we overdosing on testosterone?  Will self-promoting publicity stunts make a comeback (can we ever forget that photograph of a former Mayor inside a trolley bin)?   As arrogance increases, will the community be subjected to ever-increasing doses of the mushroom treatment?  It was last time around... 


 We hate to say it, but MRRA did try to alert the community when it assigned zero stars to Noel Harvey (0) and John Letchford (0), and only one star to Geoff Neil (1), before last November's Council election.  The types of behaviours that are now coming to light, with which MRRA was already familiar, played a key role in determining how many stars candidates received.  Click here to see how MRRA rated candidates.


Residents - And Kyneton's Town Centre - Lose As VCAT Says There's Enough Parking For Pokies

(9/5/06 - C)  Kyneton Bowling Club and Council win but what does it mean for Kyneton's future?

Residents are thoroughly disheartened that in an interim finding, VCAT has decided Council can somehow find the extra parking needed to meet VCAT permit conditions for the Kyneton Bowling Club pokies redevelopment at the Kyneton Mechanics' Institute reserve.  The reasons why VCAT thought this are unlikely to be known for some time, as the VCAT member (Mr. Horsfall) has gone on leave and will provide that information when he returns.


MRRA Says:

Hollow.  That's the word that comes to mind in looking at what some will see as a victory with this decision.  If we look beyond the tit-for-tat, we-won, we-won mentality, what does this decision really mean for Kyneton?  Getting the car spaces will involve double or triple-dipping by part-time use of spaces already used for other purposes - sucking up every spare inch, taking over every possible nook and cranny - just so the Bowling Club pokies re-arrangement of the Kyneton Mechanics' Institute can go ahead.  Where does this part of Kyneton go from here?  There is absolutely no scope for finding a single additional car space from the Town Hall to Simpson Street.  Bad decisions over the years have ensured those spaces are now all accounted for - several times over.  Does it mean no more businesses in Kyneton if they can't provide parking on their own site?  Will economic development in Kyneton be stifled?  What type of traffic management (or chaos) will jamming cars into Simpson and Baynton Streets produce?  What level of safety does it provide next to a Primary School?  


There will be people who won't see how this decision potentially cripples the commercial heart of Kyneton, and some of our Councillors have already said they think kids being crippled instead of killed isn't a bad outcome.  So we suspect those who think they have 'won' won't be concerned about whether the interests of the broader public are served or the long-term prosperity and growth of Kyneton is assured, as long as they have what they wanted or what they might have promised to deliver last November.  As we said, hollow.


Independent Parliamentarian Dianne Hadden Says "Tell VCAT Half A Decision Isn't Good Enough"

(9/5/06 - SG)  Kyneton pokies decision "A Black Day" for the town

Independent local pollie Dianne Hadden has condemned VCAT's decision to dismiss an enforcement order to make Macedon Ranges Council provide the parking spaces needed for the Kyneton Bowling Club pokies venue at the Kyneton Mechanics' Institute.  She is also highly critical of the form of the decision has taken.  VCAT has issued an interim order without yet giving its reasons for the order, which significantly disadvantages objectors.  Click here to see what Dianne says in her press release issued today.


Kyneton Mechanics' Institute:  Objectors Demonstrate Parking Chaos Is Kyneton's Future

(1/4/06 - C)  Kyneton Bowling Club not amused

Kyneton residents who object to the Kyneton Bowling Club's takeover of more of the Kyneton Mechanics' Institute reserve and are saying the parking arrangements for the development aren't safe and won't work, today made their point by occupying some of the parking spaces in Simpson and Baynton Street.  While not all spaces were 'occupied' at the same time, and stays were relatively short, early feedback indicates even this small shift in demand for parking spaces created absolute chaos, particularly in Baynton Street.


MRRA Says:

Our informants tell us that Kyneton Bowling Club members were not at all impressed, with one accusing objectors of 'trying to create a parking/traffic hazard'.   All we can say is, well spotted.  Wasn't that the very point objectors were trying to demonstrate?  That with just a little extra traffic and demand on parking spaces - as would happen if the Kyneton Bowling Club pokies development goes ahead - the result would indeed create a parking/traffic hazard in Baynton and Simpson Streets.  And it wasn't even school drop-off and pick-up time!



24/3/06 Kyneton Guardian article


Residents Lose As Council Again Supports 'Unsafe' Mechanics' Institute Parking In Kyneton

(27/3/06 - C)  Community says danger to children increased: tempers fray as Councillors say safer solutions are needed but 4 still vote for 'more accidents at lower speed' arrangement


Council Parking Plan Click here to see the article in last Friday's (24/3/06) Macedon Ranges' Guardian and copy of Council's proposed parking plan in Baynton Street


At last Wednesday's Council meeting, the basic questions were:  is the new 90 degree parking in Baynton Street safe, and would Council listen to the concerns of ratepayers?  


Eight Councillors (John Letchford was absent) dealt with a petition signed by over 230 residents asking Council to reinstate parallel parking in Baynton Street, Kyneton.  Petitioners said the angle parking arrangements, installed by Council in an attempt to generate sufficient car spaces to meet VCAT parking requirements for the Kyneton Bowling Club development, are creating an unsafe situation. 


Cr. Gyorffy kicked off the 'questions of officers' segment by asking some curly ones of Council engineer, David Serpell, who had earlier advised Council the arrangement has a 'traffic calming' effect, and that the primary school accepts 'slower traffic and more spaces'.  Tempers got testy during Cr. Gyorffy's questioning. Cr. Neil told Cr. Gyorffy there was a difference between questioning and cross-examining (Cr. Gyorffy said they were the same thing); Cr. Harvey speared in a peeved-off point of order objecting to the officer being interrogated and told Cr. Gyorffy if he turned up at (afternoon) briefing meetings he could avoid interrogation in the chamber; and shortly after that Cr. Neil cut Cr. Gyorffy off by telling him he'd had a fair crack and to take his seat.  Cr. Gyorffy did get confirmation from Mr. Serpell that, from an Occupational Health and Safety perspective, in risk situations engineering was the 'bottom rung' solution, then came education and training, with elimination the best of all solutions.  Cr. Gyorffy pointed out that Council was still at the engineering 'rung' in addressing this issue.  Mr. Serpell confirmed there are likely to be more accidents, but at slower speed, with the angle parking arrangements which reduce drivers' visibility by 3 metres.  During debate, Cr. Gyorffy said Council had a responsibility to ask the questions a reasonable person might ask.  He said the parking arrangements have increased risk and said Council must look at safety, and listen to the community and common sense. 


Cr. Guthrie questioned the accuracy of figures in the officer's report, asking why it said 30 metres of angle parking in Baynton Street when there was almost 65 metres of it, and why there was a half metre discrepancy in the width of Baynton St.  Mr. Serpell advised these were 'typos' and apologized if Council's tape measure was out, but maintained it made no difference to the safety situation. Cr. McGregor asked about teachers' parking arrangements but Mr. Serpell said he wasn't sure.  Cr. Bleeck asked if car spaces had been measured and was told some measuring had occurred and some spaces were under, some over and, yes, car spaces are designed to minimum width.


From what those in favour of the angle parking said in debate, it seems residents and particularly mothers are lousy or lazy drivers, and cause most of the problems. 


Cr. Harvey said it wasn't his role to measure the spaces.  While he didn't like the arrangements, he didn't believe they were unsafe and as a novice he personally was convinced it was a safe situation.  He re-iterated he didn't like the solution and knows the community doesn't like it, and down the track Council needs to find a better solution.  Cr. Relph said children are unpredictable but it was a lot less safe in her area, and the community needs to learn to park a bit further away.  She said it's about parents and supervision - parking close isn't always achievable, education is needed, parents and school staff need to park further away and walk.  Engineering solutions are about creating spaces but there are community solutions as well.   Cr. Neil thought long and hard before deciding to speak, and asked Cr. Gyorffy if he would feel differently if vehicles were reversing into the angle parking.  The Mayor drew on 25 years experience (as a traffic policeman) before saying the greatest danger is a mother driving to pick up her own child.  He said that the solution as implemented adds to the potential safety of a child because it slows traffic down.  He referred to the 'Wipe Off 5' campaign, saying 5kmh could be the difference between death, and bruising.  If it was his child, a broken leg was a happier situation than some others.  He conceded it wasn't an 'ants pants' solution but was certainly better than before.


Cr. Harvey seemed totally out-of-sorts as he closed the debate by saying it was very easy to make emotive arguments about safety - but as a father and grandfather his No.1 concern was safety.  He said everyone had seen kids run out on roads but it was a fallacy to say this is less safe, because a child is less likely to run out with this arrangement.  He said he had this week received a letter supporting the arrangement so there were diverse views in the community.  He closed by saying this isn't an unsafe solution, but at the same time he wasn't saying it is good or can't be done better.  Council needs to come up with a safer solution.


In the end, the vote wasn't surprising - tied at 4-all with Crs. Harvey (moved), Relph (seconded), Connor and Neil (all four of whom also voted for the KMI development last December) voting to retain the present angled arrangement; Crs. Guthrie, Bleeck, McGregor and Gyorffy (all four opposed the KMI development last December) voting to change back to parallel parking.  It wasn't too much of a surprise either that the Mayor, Geoff Neil, cast the deciding vote in favour of keeping the present angle parking arrangement - but only after Cr. Harvey had the words 'less safe' deleted from the final motion, which ended up something like this:  "Council does not believe the parking arrangement to be unsafe and there is no safety benefit to be gained in reverting to the previous parking configuration."


MRRA Says:

Did you get the feeling a few Councillors were trying to hedge their bets?


Yes, but... No, but... Yes, but...  No, but...    For a while there, we thought we were watching Little Britain. 


How can it be acceptable for children to be placed in anything except the least possible danger?   How can some of our Councillors think that they can lob the blame for 'unsafe' situations onto everyone else, that they can go with something they actually admit isn't a 'good' solution and needs to be made safer?   How can they turn their backs on community concerns in a safety issue?  How can they say more accidents, albeit at slower speeds, are OK? 


During this agenda item, as if it was a re-run of "The Emperor's New Clothes", not a single word was said about how reverting to parallel parking would see the end of the KMI proposal.  Not a word. 


And to think that back in 1999 * the Mayor, Geoff Neil, was the only then Councillor who voted against the new supermarket proposal because of his concerns over parking arrangements.  Those arrangements included proposed 90 degree angle parking in Baynton Street opposite the supermarket.  Last Wednesday, in 2006, he cast the deciding vote to make it official: the same type of arrangements that previously caused him concern are now 'safe' even though there are now more angled car spaces, more cars, more businesses, probably more kids - and as admitted, there will be more accidents.  

* Crs. Harvey and Letchford, who were also Councillors in 1999, voted for the supermarket proposal.


Kyneton Mechanics' Institute:  Objectors' Complaint About Parking Upheld At VCAT

(18/3/06 - C)  Justice Morris orders hearing to address KMI parking shortage

Objectors who are challenging Council's ability to provide the parking required by VCAT for the KMI proposal had a win when VCAT head, Stuart Morris, found their complaint was not frivolous or vexatious, as claimed by Council.  Justice Morris ordered the matter to be heard before a legal member on April 10.  Council has until April 4 to circulate evidence that it can provide the car spaces needed to satisfy planning permit conditions. Two Councillors, Gyorffy and Guthrie, submitted sworn affidavits to VCAT attesting that car spaces provided by Council are at least 10 short of what's needed.  Justice Morris apparently advised those present that if Council cannot provide legally-compliant car spaces within the confines of Baynton and Simpson Streets, the planning permit for the KMI development will be thrown out. Cr. Gyorffy, in his affidavit, also challenged the legality of VCAT ordering parking to be provided on public streets instead of on the land where the development is proposed, and of making orders that restrict public access to Kyneton Mechanics' Institute (VCAT previously ordered that once the Bowling Club development is completed, no more than 50 people at any one time can occupy the KMI).  Justice Morris left these two matters open but did recognise Council's authority over KMI.


MRRA Says:

We hear there are some unhappy Vegemiters right now at Council headquarters in Kyneton.  It seems Crs. Gyorffy and Guthrie this week spent their holiday Monday running a tape measure over Baynton and Simpson Streets in Kyneton, and drawing up their findings - and those are that Council doesn't have the number of car spaces it claims, nor does it have a lot of opportunities to provide them without more costs.  These two Councillors raised this same issue at a special Council meeting last December, to no avail as it turned out, because 5 Councillors (Harvey, Connor, Neil, Letchford and Relph) later voted to go ahead with the KMI project. 


With its roots deep in the Prue Mansfield era (Macedon Ranges' CEO from 1995 until 2000), it is unbelievable that after all of this time this project should come down to this.  MRRA understands there is some form of contract from the Mansfield era that reportedly binds Council to the Kyneton Bowling Club project.   If so, Council's signing of it would have to be one of the stupidest and most arrogant actions ever taken in this Shire (and there hasn't been a shortage of other examples!).  From what we can work out, it seems Council might be damned if it does, and damned if it doesn't - and in either instance ratepayers could be looking down the barrel of finding huge amounts of money.  This project was a disaster in the making for ratepayers from the very start, not least of all because it hands public land over to the Bowling Club.  That should have been enough to stop it way back when.  What an appalling legacy we have inherited.  Of the 5 Councillors who last December voted to move this project forward again, Letchford, Neil and Harvey were Councillors during Ms. Mansfield's tenure as CEO, and Letchford, Neil, Harvey and Connor were Councillors during the tenure of Ms. Lydia Wilson, Ms. Mansfield's successor as CEO from 2000 - 2003. 


These were the years when this project was spawned and went to design stage - they were also the years when our Councillors could have put public and ratepayers' interests first by just saying 'no'.  


Wherever this mess goes from here, because until now the sheer inappropriateness of what's proposed doesn't seem to have been fully recognized, it now has the potential to reach deeply into all parts of the Macedon Ranges' community - and pockets.


VCAT Asked To Act On Kyneton Mechanics' Institute Development

(25/2/06 - C) Supporters want planning permit conditions enforced

A group of Kyneton residents has gone to VCAT to get planning permit conditions for the Kyneton Bowling Club development enforced.  Perhaps the most contentious issue is parking.  Residents say Council, as the permit holder, hasn't delivered the conditions VCAT put on the permit.  Some Councillors, including Crs. Gyorffy and Guthrie, have raised strong concerns at both the shortage and safety of parking spaces Council has already put in place.  NB  A number of accidents have occurred in Baynton Street since Council altered parking arrangements from parallel to 90 degree parking spaces.


KMI To Go Ahead Despite Unsafe And Insufficient Parking

(15/12/05 – C) Despite road safety risks and potential for big, extra costs to ratepayers, Crs. Neil, Letchford, Relph, Connor and Harvey say “Go ahead, we can fix it later…’

A 5 to 4 majority of Macedon Ranges’ Councillors last night resolved to go ahead with the Kyneton Bowling Club’s KMI development despite agreement that parking arrangements are unsafe and fail to meet VCAT-imposed planning permit conditions  (Note: Council, not the Kyneton Bowling Club, is the permit holder and is responsible for complying with permit conditions).  VCAT stipulated 27 car spaces, additional to the existing 64, be provided – a total of 91.  According to Cr. Rob Guthrie, the number of spaces that Council has provided – mostly conversion of parallel parking to 90 degree angle parking – seems 10 short of what’s required.  He also said those car spaces don’t meet planning scheme and Australian Design minimum width standards, forcing cars to back out further into the road before they can turn.  Cr. Tom Gyorffy argued against contracts being signed until parking and road safety issues were resolved – if they can be – and any additional costs ratepayers may incur in providing alternative parking arrangements be identified before going any further with the development.  Cr. Gyorffy made the point that Council could be looking at another $700,000 costs to comply with permit conditions.  He added that if Council went ahead without a solution, it would have knowingly created a potentially dangerous situation (there have already been two injury accidents) which may not be covered by Council’s insurers, which would leave ratepayers to foot any bill for damages and injury.   In moving the motion Cr. Noel Harvey focussed on what he said the community gained (or didn’t lose) from the development going ahead, and while agreeing parking did not meet requirements argued it was a peripheral issue.  He said Council could go back to VCAT and have the permit amended.  He was backed by seconder Cr. John Connor, who said the community had said go ahead (believed to be a reference to the election results) and that Council had been bombarded by a noisy minority.  No other Councillors spoke.  Note:  Crs. Harvey and Connor were both endorsed by the Kyneton Bowling Club at the recent Council election.


MRRA Says:

It is a sobering thought that most of our Councillors – and particularly the two ‘traffic’ policemen on Council – were prepared to support a proposal which is demonstrably deficient, if not dangerous, and has high potential to backfire at substantial cost to ratepayers, not to mention its non-compliance with VCAT, planning scheme and other requirements.   As Cr. Gyorffy said, this area is ‘child-saturated’, being next to a primary school and public playground.  Yet five of our Councillors apparently thought that the risk to children, and (financially) to the wider community, was worth taking.  We wonder, why?


New Council To Decide Fate Of KMI Wednesday 14th December

(10/12/05 – C) Will Kyneton’s town centre be saved?

A Special Council meeting will be held at 8.30pm next Wednesday (14th December, 2005) at the Kyneton Town Hall to determine the fate of Kyneton’s Mechanics’ Institute and its reserve.  A proposal by the Kyneton Bowling Club to take over parts of the institute and reserve to expand its club and gambling facilities will again come before Council for final consideration by the new Council.   The takeover was a key issue in the recent West ward Council election.  Newly-elected Cr. Tom Gyorffy campaigned on stopping the Bowling club takeover.  ‘Recycled’ (former) councillor, Noel Harvey, was supported by the Kyneton Bowling Club as the person who would best represent the Club’s interests.  MRRA understands each councillor will have 10 minutes to put their (opposing?) views, with other councillors allotted 3 minutes.   The Kyneton Town Centre Association, which opposes the takeover and wants the KMI precinct saved for public access and use, is calling on those who support its position to alert as many people as possible and for them to make sure they get to the Special meeting next Wednesday (preferably wearing something red).  Meeting Details:  Kyneton Town Hall,   8.30pm,   Wednesday 14th December.


Kyneton Mechanics’ Institute Recommended for National Heritage List

(15/10/05 – C) But Council questions inclusion of library in listing

At last Wednesday’s Planning Committee meeting, Council considered advice that Kyneton’s Mechanics’ Institute AND Library have been nominated for inclusion in the National Heritage List.  No objection will be offered to the listing, but Council wants to clarify the inclusion of the Library in the heritage nomination.  The officer’s report suggested the listing may be referring to the Library Collection rather than the library structure and wants clarification.


MRRA Says:

Our advice is that the library commenced operations as a lending library in 1858, and is significant at national level as one of the few remaining, continuously operating lending libraries in Australia.  Council’s concern at the library’s inclusion in the nomination for National listing could be understandable, given the Bowling Club development at the Kyneton Mechanics’ Institute will, we understand, damage/demolish the same (significant) library.



Details About The “Reclaim Kyneton's Heart” Rally, Now To Be Held On October 15th

(29/9/05 – C) Organizers say ‘come along and be informed’

A rally organized by the Kyneton Town Centre Association will now be held at the Kyneton Mechanics’ Institute Reserve starting at 11.00 am on Saturday 15th October (not 1st October as originally notified).   Interesting people you might want to talk to who will attend include Mark Zirnsak from Interchurch Gambling Taskforce, outspoken State Upper House politician Dianne Hadden (who has called for Macedon Ranges’ Council to be sacked over its handling of the Kyneton Mechanics’ Institute issue), Jim Lowden (Mechanics’ Institutes Victoria), lawyers outlining the legal situation regarding the KMI development, Shadow Minister for Planning Ted Baillieu (to be confirmed), and potential candidates for Council.   A sausage sizzle is planned, so bring a picnic rug and show your support for public ownership of and access to the Mechanics’ Institute and reserve.  NB  Wear your ‘red heart’ and anything else red, and bring along banners, posters etc.


Kyneton Mechanics’ Institute: Support The “Reclaim Kyneton's Heart” Rally On 1st  NOW 15th  October

(2/9/05 – C) Show you care

Kyneton Town Centre Group is calling on Macedon Ranges’ residents to attend a “Reclaim Kyneton’ Heart” Rally to express their support for protecting the Kyneton Mechanics’ Institute and keeping the Institute reserve in public hands.  The rally will be held on Saturday 1st October, at the Mechanics’ Institute Reserve, starting at 11.00am.    Wear your ‘red heart’ and anything else red, and bring along banners, posters etc   A sausage sizzle will be on hand to feed the   Note:  If you would like to contact the organizers, you can do so by sending an email via MRRA to


UPDATE  Kyneton Mechanics’ Institute:  230 Sign Up To Save Mechanics’ Institute

(12/9/05 – C) And counting…

Organisers report they gathered 230 signatures in support of Federal heritage protection for the Kyneton Mechanics’ Institute at Kyneton’s Farmers Market last Saturday.  They are also delighted at the conversation, and amount of sharing of information and history that went on, and say the day was a very positive one.

Reminder:  Don’t forget to put your submission in support of Federal heritage protection.  Click here for draft submission.


Kyneton Mechanics Institute: Special Council Meeting 14th September 5.00pm

(9/9/05 – C) Get your ‘Say NO’ signs out:  Council to award construction tender for Bowling Club – even though heritage permit and lease aren’t signed off yet!

Macedon Ranges Council will hold a Special Council Meeting on Wednesday 14th September at 5.00 pm at the Kyneton Administration Centre to consider awarding a construction tender for the development of a new Kyneton library & Bowling Club and associated works to the Kyneton Mechanics Institute.  The meeting will consider a confidential evaluation report on tenders received.  For further information please contact Stephen Mahon on 03 5422 0352.  Note: This Special Council Meeting will be followed by a meeting of Council’s Planning Committee.  You might want to stick around for that one too.


MRRA Says:

Given that Heritage Victoria has apparently still to give the project the nod, and the Minister for Planning still hasn’t stamped the 21 year lease agreement for the Bowling Club to take over more public land, MRRA has a sense of seeing the cart galloping away from the horses.


Kyneton Mechanics’ Institute:  Sign Up To Save Mechanics’ Institute At Kyneton Farmers’ Market 10 September

(2/9/05 – C) Make a day of it at the Daffodil Festival!

On Saturday 10th September, from 9 am to 1 pm, Kyneton Town Centre Group (KTCG) will have a table at the Kyneton Farmers’ Market, in St Paul’s Park, Piper Street, Kyneton.  If people would like to meet members of the KTCG to talk about the submission for Federal heritage protection for the Mechanics’ Institute, and sign a group letter, they are most welcome.  There will be local wine, food and fresh produce.  A special 'Meet the Makers' Artists Market (a special event for the Daffodil Festival) will also be there so it's well worth making the trip.   Note:  If you would like to contact the organizers, you can do so by sending an email via MRRA to


Get Your Submission In To Protect Kyneton Mechanics’ Institute

(28/8/05 – C) Kyneton residents ask for your help to support Federal Heritage Listing  Note: Submissions close 15th September   see below


UPDATE (2/9/05 – C) :  MRRA has had some more information come in about why the Kyneton Mechanics’ Institute is incredibly important , and why you as an Australian should think about making a submission in support of National level heritage protection.    Note:  If you would like to contact the organizers, you can do so by sending an email via MRRA to


The [Kyneton] Mechanics’ Institute held many meetings on the subject of Federation, and the ANA (Australian Natives’ Association) held a very important AGM at the Institute in March 1893 with 150 delegates from around the country.  These delegates decided to push for federation and make the next step of holding a large follow-up meeting at Corowa later in that year.  The Kyneton Mechanics’ Institute was also the birthplace for the Australian Light Horse Brigade which is remembered for, amongst other things, that famous charge at Beersheba.


Get Your Submission In To Protect Kyneton Mechanics’ Institute

(28/8/05 – C) Kyneton residents ask for your help to support Federal Heritage Listing


Here’s the alert MRRA received from the Kyneton Town Centre Group:


Well, as you have no doubt read in the paper, the submission for the KMI to be listed on the Federal Heritage List has passed the first round and they are now wanting people to write in support of the submission.  This would be a fabulous honour for the KMI and hopefully will then provide the opportunity for a bigger pool of funding to be sought to help restore it, and it would be a tourist positive too.  We are also hoping that the Macedon Ranges Shire Council will support the submission as the Institute’s Committee of Management.


Please use the attached letter to put in a submission in support of the application, or if you can, use the information in that letter to write your own.  By all means give the letter to others to send (as many as possible!).


Kyneton Mechanics’ Institute At Parliament House

(22/7/05 – C) Objectors claim meeting a success

Click here to see what the Bendigo Advertiser had to say about Wednesday’s gathering at the Parliament House steps.


Macedon Ranges’ Ratepayers Forfeit $25,000 To Subsidize Pokies as Council Leases Public Land To Kyneton Bowling Club

(27/6/05 - C) 150 - 200 objectors vow to change Councillors as six to two vote ‘kills’ the heart of Kyneton.  Planning Minister Hulls will now make final decision on the lease.  Will he stand up for a demonstrated community desire to keep public land for public use, or will he back Council and the pokies?

At the June 21 Council meeting, Councillors who voted against pokies in Romsey did a back-flip to support the enhancement of gaming and associated facilities in Kyneton.  Only two (Dunn, Guthrie) of 8 Councillors present (Cr. Connor was absent) voted against Council approving a new 21 year lease that allows Kyneton Bowling Club to move into public land at the Kyneton Mechanics’ Institute.   The motion was moved Martin Evans, seconded Alan Todd.   We will never know why Councillors Bleeck, Gee and Relph supported the lease, because they didn’t speak at all during debate on the issue.   Cr. Guthrie said he couldn’t support approving new 21 year lease just because the Bowling Club had asked for it, and the Bowling Club should move somewhere else.  Council has a gaming policy for Macedon Ranges which opposes expansion and encourages reduction of gaming facilities.  Cr. Dunn made an impassioned plea opposing the lease, saying there are no winners.  She said a comprehensive State government review of all gaming licences is about to start, another is looking at regional capping levels, and changes are being made to the planning system to ensure applications for pokies require a planning permit (these last two are due for completion in November 2005). She argued Council should wait until it at least knows what the results of these processes look like before signing on for 21 years.   Both Councillors Dunn and Guthrie received thunderous applause from the gallery for their comments.


The lease approved by Council sets the first year’s rent at just $10,000 (a drop of $6,000 from the amount set in 1991) to help the Bowling Club over the disruption of constructing new premises.  The second year’s rent is current market rental value ($35,000) which means that we, as ratepayers, are subsidizing the Bowling Club’s expansion and pokie operations to the tune of $25,000 in the first year of the lease.


It is now up to Planning Minister, Rob Hulls, to endorse Council’s approval of the lease.  This will test whether the Minister believes the land, which is reserved for specific purposes (bars, restaurants and gambling facilities are not among them!) should remain in the hands of the wider public or be turned over to private (gambling) enterprise.  Councillor Martin Evans, in his arguments, said that when the Minister visited Council in April, he had Minister indicated that he was quite comfortable with what Council is doing and its processes.  We’ll see.


MRRA Says:

The further it goes, the murkier it seems to get.  It came out at the meeting that Councillors weren’t in fact advised of Council’s Responsible Gaming Policy (2002) at the time they approved a planning permit for the Bowling Club’s development at KMI in 2003.  We were also told a planning permit has not yet been issued (plans of the proposal were available at the meeting for comment – these have to be approved before the permit is valid).  It also came out that the Bowling Club isn’t in fact fixing the Mechanics’ Institute.  MRRA understands the Club has pledged $100,000 towards the cost of PUTTING BACK FACILITIES LOST TO ITS DEVELOPMENT -   facilities such as the playground and toilets – and that Council is contributing the remainder for these works.  These works apparently DON’T INCLUDE ANY OTHER IMPROVEMENTS TO THE MECHANICS’ INSTITUTE.


MRRA can’t understand how pokies and a public library can be under the same roof, particularly next to a primary school.  And why is the public being deprived of its right to use public toilet facilities whenever it needs to – why are toilets also inside the Bowling Club’s building?   We have now also heard a whisper that there’s a very interesting heritage report floating around which we believe discusses the significant adverse effects of watering the bowling greens on the KMI structure.  The word we heard is that Councillors hadn’t read the report at the time they approved the lease.   And are our Councillors hypocrites?  Up in arms and righteous about no pokies in Romsey, not a problem signing away public facilities and public land for pokies in Kyneton.  Why?   Why did Council’s Gaming Policy apply in Romsey, but not in Kyneton?


So now the big decision lies with the Minister.  MRRA has heard whispers that suggest the Minister will sign off on the lease (see ‘Done Deal?’ story below, 14/6/05). Councillor Martin Evans certainly seemed confident.  Guess it’s over to you, Mr Hulls.  Not an easy decision to make – will the Minister support the community, or the Council?


Rumours That Kyneton Mechanics’ Institute Could Be A Done Deal

(14/6/05 – C) Is Minister Set To Sign?

In breaking news, an anonymous caller to MRRA has suggested an executive body close to the Minister for Planning is waiting for the Minister to sign off on the Kyneton Bowling Club’s takeover of public land at the Kyneton Mechanics’ Institute site.  Our caller told us not to be surprised to see some ‘suits’ at up-coming KMI meetings (see below) and suggested residents need to be asking if everything is being done by the book, and whether a decision has been made in advance of proper processes occurring.  MRRA would like to think all proper processes are being undertaken and observed, and that all decisions will put the interests of the broad Kyneton community and wider public before the interests of a relatively new player in the town – Kyneton Bowling Club’s pokie enterprise.


Kyneton Mechanics’ Institute:  Action At Parliament House 11.30am Wednesday 20th July

(14/7/05 - C) Be there to show you care about saving Kyneton’s heart

The Kyneton Town Centre Association (KTCA) is inviting as many people as possible to come to the steps of Parliament House in Spring Street, Melbourne to show they care about the future of Kyneton's town centre.  The group wants to give Mr. Hulls, Minister for Planning, and all parliamentarians a message.  That message is that Mr. Hulls should not grant the Kyneton Bowling Club a new 21 year lease over Crown land.  The lease would tie up the centre of Kyneton for another 21 years of occupation of public land for private enterprise, and bind the town's centre to a use that is not in the public interest.  KTCA says people should be at the steps of Parliament at 11.30 am on Wednesday 20 July (next Wednesday).  Many parliamentarians have been invited to come out of Parliament at 12 midday and talk to the group, including Mr. Hulls and Mr. Bracks.  Bring your red hearts or red clothes and banners.  KTCA is taking a bus from Organ’s Bus service depot in Kyneton at 10 am.  Please contact Gerard Hughes on 5422 6050 or Steve Turner on 5422 3932 if you wish to use the bus.  Hope to see you there!


Kyneton Mechanics Institute:  CALL TO MACEDON RANGES’ RESIDENTS – Show of Community Opposition And Solidarity Needed as Council Decides Wednesday 22nd on Lease for Bowling Club Takeover of Public Land

(17/6/05 - C) If it can happen in Kyneton, it can happen anywhere.



If possible, wear a red heart or something else red and carry posters with ‘No Lease’ or similar written on them.


At its meeting on Wednesday 22nd June at Kyneton Town Hall, starting at 7.00 pm (time subject to confirmation), Council will decide whether to sign a 21 year lease with the Kyneton Bowling Club.  The lease, for what appears to be not much more than a peppercorn rent, will see new buildings for the Bowling Club (Gambling Club?) take over space currently used for public toilets and a children’s playground next to the Kyneton Mechanics’ Institute. Several groups who used the Institute are understood to have been evicted.


While the specifics and details of this proposal are themselves open to strong challenge, there is also a fundamental principle involved that has the potential to affect all residents: should public land be handed over to private enterprise, should the public be excluded from using public space?  N.B.  Telecommunications towers at Mt. Gisborne are another example of public land being used for private enterprise.


Council has called those objecting to the lease ‘a minority group of serial objectors’.  Many residents around the Shire will be familiar with this description – it’s applied by Council to people who disagree with Council in an attempt to justify doing something Council shouldn’t do.  Given there are some 700 signatures on petitions, 350 people attended a Holding of Hands event recently at the Institute, 200 people attended a public meeting, and hundreds have written letters or made submissions, Council appears to be arrogantly mis-reading and dismissing the depth of community opposition to it signing away public land and public access rights to the Mechanics’ Institute for the next 21 years.   PLEASE TRY TO GET TO THE MEETING, AND TELL YOUR FRIENDS.


Info Evening Kyneton Mechanics’ Institute Development Plans 16th June

(12/6/05 – C) Council to run public information session.

Council will hold an information night to discuss the Kyneton Mechanics’ Institute development plans on Thursday 16th June, at the Kyneton Mechanics’ Institute, starting at 7.00 pm.   Councillors Evans and Todd, as well as the project architect and Council staff will be present.  Those wishing to attend please contact Ms Diane Warren on 5422 0313.


MRRA Says:

Residents please note:  This information evening is being held the day AFTER Council hears public submissions (and makes a decision?) on its intention to lease public land at the Mechanics’ Institute to the Kyneton Bowling Club.   We understand the information session on Thursday 16th is about considering detailed plans submitted by the Bowling Club in response to planning permit requirements.   Interested and concerned residents are urged to attend both the Special Council meeting (Wednesday, 15th June at Kyneton, starting at 7.00 pm, check with Council for the venue) and the information evening the following day, Thursday 16th.


Kyneton Mechanics’ Institute: Get Submissions On Council’s “Intention To Lease” In By June 7th

(31/5/05 - C) Have your say about Council leasing public land for private enterprise in the heart of Kyneton.

Keep public land for public use!   Residents are urged to put in a submission opposing Council’s intention to lease OUR land to the Kyneton Bowling Club for the next 21 years.  Council has given notice of its intention to lease, and you can make a submission until June 7th .  Section 223 of the Local Government Act applies so check out Council’s website ( for details of your rights.  Inquiries to Odette Leach, Council’s Property Officer, on 5422 0370.


Mechanics’ Institute: ‘Hold Hands’ for Kyneton Town Centre 28 May, 10 am

(22/5/05 – C) Call for community support to reclaim Kyneton’s heart.

The Kyneton Town Centre group is asking Macedon Ranges’ residents to give up a little of their time next Saturday to help the people of Kyneton reclaim the heart of their town.   A 'holding of hands' around the Kyneton Mechanics Institute will be held on 28th May, starting at 10 am, to show that people care about what happens in the heart of Kyneton.  It’s not too late to say ‘no’ to a 21 year lease of public land, or to have a town centre for the people.  Organisers would love to see YOU at the Kyneton Mechanics’ Institute reserve next Saturday, so show your support by being there, and by wearing something red or by bringing along a red cardboard heart or red balloons and banners.


Kyneton Mechanics’ Institute:  Newly Independent MLC Dianne Hadden Speaks In Parliament for Suspension of Macedon Ranges Council

(27/4/05 – C) Claims Council’s handling of the Kyneton Mechanics’ Institute issue is contrary to Crown Land and Local Government Act Requirements.

From Hansard, in speaking to a motion put forward on Wednesday 20th April by Bill Forwood expressing grave concerns with maladministration in local government, newly independent MLC Dianne Hadden, called on the Minister for Local Government to take action to suspend the Macedon Ranges Shire Council over its handling of the planning application by the Kyneton Bowling Club to extend its gaming facilities onto the children’s playground which is on reserve Crown land at Kyneton.   Ms Hadden stated that the Council has a conflict of interest because it is also the appointed committee of management over the reserved Crown Land. That is again a breach of this act.  “The land is not reserved for a gaming facility, and it is not reserved for a public bar either.  It is reserved as a children’s playground, a mechanics’ institute, library, for public recreation and as a solders’ memorial.  It is very specific.”  Ms. Hadden added that Council had failed to address the Local Government Act in a number of instances in relation to the specific issues of the Kyneton Mechanics Institute.


Kyneton Mechanic’s Institute:  Upcoming Community Forum 28 April

(13/4/05 - C) A community forum about the Kyneton Mechanics’ Institute issue will be held on Thursday 28 April, 2005 starting at 7.30 pm at the Church Hall, rear of St Paul’s Church of England, corner of Yaldwyn and Powlett Streets, Kyneton.   MRRA has been invited to attend to present a ‘ratepayers’ perspective.  Further details will be provided shortly.  See also MRRA Letter To Council  Contact with the organisers can be made temporarily through MRRA’s email address:


Kyneton Mechanics’ Institute: Community Opposition To Takeover of Public Land – Meeting Tomorrow Thursday 11 am

(13/4/05 - C) Residents are strongly encouraged to gather at the Kyneton Mechanics’ Institute tomorrow at 11 am (at the children’s playground) to show the strength of community opposition to the Kyneton Bowling Club’s expansion into public land.

There will be a public showing of objection tomorrow (Thursday 14th April) at 11 am at the Kyneton Mechanics’ Institute, High Street, Kyneton (near the traffic lights, and next to the bowling club). People will meet near the children’s playground, and the gathering will be addressed by Jim Lowden, President of the Mechanics Institutes of Victoria.  The key issue is the takeover and use of public land (our land) for private enterprise purposes. The event has been called to draw attention to community concerns and objections and to Council’s imminent approval of the Bowling Club’s application to take control of even more public facilities and land at KMI.  Note:  the children’s playground will be removed by the Bowling Club expansion.  If you have concerns or object or simply wish to support those objecting to the proposal, you are strongly encouraged to attend to add strength to community opposition.  Contact with the organisers can be made temporarily through MRRA’s email address:


Kyneton Mechanics' Institute:  Is Public Interest Being 'Bowled Over' By Private Enterprise?

(13/4/05 - C) The Kyneton Bowling Club’s proposal to take over parts of the Kyneton Mechanics’ Institute and its surrounds raises major issues about public use of public land.

MRRA has written to Macedon Ranges Council strongly protesting the Kyneton Bowling Club’s expansion and registering concerns with resulting impacts on the historic Kyneton Mechanics’ Institute, public access and enjoyment of public land, parking, local businesses, shoppers and public facilities.   Some of the main issues raised in MRRA’s letter are:


We are perturbed at the decision of the Macedon Ranges Shire to support the Kyneton Bowling Club to build on and acquire more land adjacent to the Mechanics Institute.  We wish to lodge a strong protest


This is Crown Land and is reserved for public use and enjoyment and not for the restricted use and private occupation by a private and commercial enterprise.


This lease of public land for a Club building imposes on the children’s playground area, the Kyneton Library and would cause the public toilets to be demolished and relocated.   The proposed lease would ‘lock up’ public land for 21 years for the Club’s exclusive use…


…more cars will arrive and park in the already crowded streets surrounding this venue.  Thus, residents, shoppers, and shopkeepers will be inconvenienced.


…the Shire should rethink its decision before it turns the town of Kyneton upside down and locks away Public Park Land for 21 years



Kyneton RSL Pokies



Kyneton RSL Pokies Decision Confirms Community Is Helpless To Stop The Scourge Of Poker Machines

(30/9/06 - C) No point appealing Victorian Commission for Gaming Regulation's approval of more pokies at the Kyneton RSL - VCAT will just approve it too.

It was a fairly dejected bunch who looked at the VCGR's decision and considered an officer's recommendation not to pursue it any further by challenging the decision at VCAT.  Cr. Tom Gyorffy (West) captured the mood of powerlessness, in the face of State policy promoting pokies that disadvantage so many people, when he said:

No-one is listening to community. 


There is an opportunity to send a real message in the up-coming State election.  People should look at where candidates stand on gaming policy, and ask, is it an improvement - or just more of this.  What's happening sticks in my craw - and it's a lottery at VCAT.  People should express their opinions strongly to candidates.


Pokies' Hearing Comes To Kyneton 4th August

(21/7/06 - P)  You can attend

A formal hearing about "Gambling In Victoria" (Gaming Machines) will be held in Kyneton on 4th August as part of the State government's State-wide review of gaming machine numbers.  Macedon Ranges Council made a submission on this issue, and we understand will be making a presentation on it at the hearing.  Click here for more details.


Council Calls Meeting Over RSL Pokies, 16th February In Kyneton

(31/1/06 – C) Tries to gauge public opinion

MRRA has had word that a public meeting will be held on 16th February at the Bluestone Theatre on Hutton Street, Kyneton (7.30 – 9.0 pm).  The topic of the meeting, which is being run by Council, is the RSL application for additional poker machines in Kyneton.  It seems Council is keen to is to gauge public opinion on the pokies issue.


MRRA Says:

After Council’s recent re-endorsement of the Kyneton Bowling Club’s proposal (on a 5 to 4 vote) and signing off on a lease that will see poker machines in the heart of Kyneton for an additional 11 years, Council should prepare itself to be inundated by cries of ‘sheer hypocrisy’ if it now says it opposes pokies at the RSL.  And those cries would be spot-on.




Macedon Ranges Shire



Amendment C64 Puts New Requirements In Place For Pokies In Macedon Ranges

(11/7/11 - P)  But more work to be done as Council didn't get all it asked for

In Amendment C64, Macedon Ranges Council attempted to back up its earlier gaming policy by making it clear where gaming machines are prohibited, and where they are 'discouraged', in the Shire.  To do this, Council prepared maps of both prohibited and 'discouraged' areas in towns, and asked for them to be incorporated in the planning scheme.  However, at the panel hearing for the amendment it was argued by those opposing Council's changes (predominantly those with interests in gaming machines) that this was unfair, and that 'discouraged' areas were de facto prohibited areas.  Panel members Lester Townsend, Chair and Trevor McCullough, Member, recommended the maps be removed, and references to them be replaced by a generic statement that gaming machines are prohibited in "strip shopping areas" throughout the Shire. 


This means the Shire has to rely on the State definition of 'Strip Shopping Centre' to decide whether or not gaming machines are prohibited.


While the Panel did not support including Council's maps, it did indicate that a "buffer" of 'discouraged' areas (areas where gaming machines are discouraged) "is perhaps an easier concept to support in terms of its strategic justification" but said that it could not be entertained as part of Amendment C64 (i.e. it would need to be run as a new amendment). 


The Panel's report went to Council on 9 May 2011, and the Panel Report's recommendations have now been adopted by Council.  The amendment now needs to be finalized for Ministerial approval and gazettal.


You can access the exhibited documentation and panel report for Amendment C64 by going to 'Macedon Ranges' at Planning Scheme Amendments Online:;Manningham;Mansfield;Maribyrnong;Maroondah;Melbourne;Melton;Mildura;Mitchell;Moira;Monash;Moonee%20Valley;Moorabool;Moreland;Mornington%20Peninsula;Mount%20Alexander;Moyne;Murrindindi;   Go to M for Macedon Ranges and then click on the amendment number (e.g. C64). 


MRRA Says:


It seems that Council has attempted to provide the Macedon Ranges' community with a high level of protection from the scourge of gaming machines, but its actions were seen as a step too far within the current Victorian planning system.  Nevertheless, the changes that will go into the planning scheme will still work towards achieving higher standard outcomes than have occurred in the past.


The worry MRRA has is the Shire's dependency on the State definition of "strip shopping centre", which we believe has a metropolitan bias that disadvantages rural communities.  The sticking point in the definition is the third dot point:

"it [strip shopping centre] is an area in which a significant proportion of the buildings are shops;"

This requirement was interpreted by then President of VCAT, Justice Stuart Morris, in his November 2009 decision to approve poker machines in Romsey, as meaning only buildings which are built as shops count in determining whether an area is a strip shopping centre where gaming machines are prohibited.  That is, whether or not pokies are prohibited (because the area is a strip shopping centre) hinges on the type of structure or building, not whether a business is being conducted.  For example, under the present definition a retail business using a former bank or post office wouldn't be counted as being a 'shop', and buildings used as offices also don't seem to count. In his 2009 decision, Justice Morris stated he would not regard a restaurant as a shop, and described a part of Romsey as follows: 

34 Immediately to the north of the subject land is a municipal complex, consisting of offices, other community services and a car park; and these are (in large part) in a Public Use Zone, not a business zone.  

To the north of the council complex, there is a shop building which has two uses: a fast food outlet and a real estate agency.

Further to the north there is an office style building which is used by an
agricultural business

Yet further to the north is a dwelling, used as an accountant’s office.

And then, a building which is used as a saddlery.

And to its north, there is a vacant lot; and then a brick commercial building, used as an estate agent’s office, which also fronts the side road Stawell Street.


I cannot find that the area on the east side of the main road, between Stawell Street and Woodend Wallan Road, is, or is part of, an area that is a strip shopping centre. 

In this area there is not a significant proportion of buildings that are shops.

Justice Morris only identified one of 6 buildings as being a shop.


The whole point of the State definition is to identify areas likely to be frequented by pedestrians (who may be enticed into gaming machine venues if located nearby), and prohibit gaming machines in those areas. But the current definition, and Justice Morris' interpretation, specifically recognise and count only shop buildings (not buildings that are used for shops or other business/commercial purposes) as having the ability to attract pedestrians.  In MRRA's view, this unfairly fails to recognize the complexity and diversity that typically characterize a rural town, and how small towns function. Vacant land, Shire offices and commercial and retail businesses in buildings other than purpose-built shops are commonplace.  And they are all fundamental elements of the place people go to for their every day needs: their town centre.


Alarm bells rang when we noted that an argument was put at the Amendment C64 panel hearing that although the Supreme Court and VCAT subsequently overturned Justice Morris' 2009 decision, his interpretation of strip shopping centre remained valid. 


When MRRA met the Minister for Planning on June 22, we raised this and the inherent bias against rural areas in the current definition with him, and asked for the State definition of strip shopping centre to be changed to recognise the differences between strip shopping centres in Melbourne and town centres in rural areas. 





Macedon Ranges' Council And Community Wins VCAT Decision On The Romsey Hotel Proposal: NO POKIES FOR ROMSEY!

(19/11/09 - P)  First the Supreme Court, and now VCAT, say social impacts and community well-being really, really do count. 

In a landmark outcome, last Thursday VCAT President Justice Kevin Bell handed down his decision on a proposal to introduce pokies to Romsey's only hotel.  His decision was to refuse the application.  There will be no pokies in the Romsey pub.


After years of to and fro on this proposal (i.e. Commission, VCAT, Supreme Court, VCAT), in this second VCAT decision (the first was made by Justice Stuart Morris but this was overturned by the Supreme Court), Justice Bell finally determined that the social impacts of approving the pokies' application were "strongly negative" and would cause detriment to the Romsey community's wellbeing and to the town's social character.  This impact, on balance, over-rode and outweighed the "slightly positive" economic benefits the pokies would provide, and consequently approval would represent an outcome that caused net detriment to community wellbeing.  Having reached this conclusion, Justice Bell was required by law to refuse the pokies' application.


The decision makes it clear that the particular circumstances applying in Romsey influenced the refusal, but that different circumstances may prevail in other areas which could see pokies approved.  The consideration and balancing of social and economic impacts would differ on a case by case basis. 


It's not the refusal of the pokies' application which sets a precedent, but the reasons for the refusal.  The reasons focus strongly on social issues and detriment, and their ability to outweigh and override economic benefits when taken together.


The owner of the Romsey Hotel has apparently stated the refurbishment of the hotel will now not go ahead, and he is apparently now going to pursue a casino in Bendigo (in addition to the Wallan and Romsey Hotels, he also owns the historic Shamrock Hotel in Bendigo).  Click below for a link to a story in last weekend's Bendigo Advertiser.


You can access the full VCAT decision by going to VCAT's home page.  Look under Recent Significant Decisions.


MRRA Says:


Congratulations to Justice Bell.  This is an enormous, and enormously important, determination, which takes giant strides across the landscape on social justice issues.


Justice Bell appears to have been quite meticulous in researching and explaining the reasons for his decision, and our view is that anyone who wants to talk about this decision would benefit immensely from reading it from start to finish before putting forward a view.  There already appears to be some misunderstanding and misrepresentation of the facts...


Our reading of the hefty 88 page decision, which builds on the earlier Supreme Court (Court of Appeal) findings, is that it has significant implications for future decision-making, and not just about gaming.  The whole issue of community well-being is put front and centre by the findings.  There are some key elements which we believe will reverberate. Here are some points MRRA has picked out of the decision:

The decision:


Highlights a Council's obligation to consider and promote community wellbeing, and in more than gaming issues.

Demonstrates how wellbeing can be measured.

Makes it clear that particular circumstances apply to Romsey that may not apply elsewhere.

Reinforces that economic benefits alone are not sufficient reason to approve - an application has to satisfy and accord with community and other values as well.

Recognizes that Romsey is a small rural township - not a suburb of Melbourne or a regional city - and applies that context to the assessment of social impacts.

Confirms impacts and effects are to be measured on the basis of municipal districts, although they can also be measured as part of a municipal district as well.

The starting point for the legislative framework for the decision was World Health Organisation standards.


The SEIFA rating (for disadvantage) is not relevant to or a measure of well-being per se, rather it is used as a measure for potential for problem gamblers.


The socio-economic status of Romsey is not material to the relevance of, and weight to be given to, the views which have been expressed through the three surveys and the submissions of the shire.


Community opposition is not only relevant but statutorily required to be considered in decision-making.


Opposition to gaming does not require definition or a basis or an explanation, it can just be.


Community input into decisions is not confined to Council representation, a community can have a say outside Council's input.


The attitude of the community is a factor of considerable importance in determining whether a proposal will be detrimental.


The Romsey Hotel's prominent location within the township and its proximity to community facilities and the commercial area, along with it being the sole pub in town, was a factor in assessing social impacts.


A substantial proportion of income from the pokies would be new, and would come from the Romsey community.


There is a lack of information regarding density of machines and expenditure at a local level (the decision found that within the Romsey township, the density of machines within that population was considerably higher than the density within the Shire, country Victoria and Victoria - unacceptably so - and this would have adverse impacts on a small rural community).  There is a need for a standard to allow local impacts to also be measured, as well as impacts and comparisons at other levels.


There is a need to take account of the social detriment arising from the potential for and impacts of problem gambling even if a town is not disadvantaged (SEIFA), particularly in small rural towns.


There is a need to take equal account of community views on problem gambling, as weight is already given to reduced potential for problem gambling in areas not considered to be disadvantaged (SEIFA).

At the end of the day, Justice Bell found there would be a slightly positive economic impact and a strongly negative social impact if the pokies were approved. 


This, on balance, translated into a net impact that would be detrimental to community wellbeing, which did not satisfy the statutory requirement that approval cause no detriment to wellbeing.  The law says a proposal can only be approved if there is no detriment to wellbeing.  Hence the refusal.


Another feature of the decision is the sequence of rejected arguments and submissions made by Macedon Ranges Council.  This suggests Council needs to do some homework and analysis on parts of the case it presented.  Matters at issue and dealt with in the decision included conditions on permits, Council's role and function, interpretation of net detriment, and whether economic impacts could be measured in this application (VCAT said they could, and they were). 


Council, however, is to be congratulated for persisting in this issue, despite the high costs, because the final decision, in MRRA's view, upholds some fundamental and critical community values and sets in place a whole new way of thinking when considering applications for pokies, not only in Macedon Ranges Shire, but Victoria. 


Congratulations also to the Romsey and broader Macedon Ranges' community for sticking to their values, and never giving up.


Make no mistake, for anyone with a reasonably developed sense of fair play, social justice and democratic principles, this ground-breaking and landmark decision is inspirational.  It stands as a brightly shining beacon for humanity, because it puts the human factor and social accountability squarely and prominently back into decision-making.  This truly is sustainability in motion, and in practice.




Bad News All Round On Pokies

(12/3/09 - P)  Massive costs to Council trying to stop more pokies in Macedon Ranges, while those we've got suck more out of the community

Macedon Ranges Council has a bill of more than $600,000 for the fight against pokies in Romsey.  That's a lot of money to be found from rates, although not as much as for the Kyneton Pool, even if a Federal funding application is successful. 


On the up side, the Supreme Court ruling upholding Council's appeal against VCAT's decision to allow pokies in Romsey sets a solid foundation for future Council decisions on pokies. 


However, $600,000 is $600,000.  Was it worth it?  The answer might be slightly 'yes' if the latest figures on pokies' takings across Victoria are any guide.  In Macedon Ranges, the after-payout expenditure (by pokie players) on the 95 pokies in the Shire rose from $8.2 million in the 2006/2007 financial year to $9.1 million in 2007/2008.   That amount would increase if more machines are allowed in the Shire.


All 3 existing venues in Macedon Ranges saw after-payout revenue growth in 2007/8.  Kyneton Bowling Club's 25 machines delivered $75, 675 per machine; the 28 Kyneton RSL machines $79,503 each; and the Gisborne Victorian Tavern, $120,076 each from its 42 machines (6 more than the previous year). 


MRRA Says:


Couple of things. 


We would like to see a blow by blow account of the money Council spent on legal fees which, if what we've heard is anywhere close to correct, comes to around 60% of the total amount and to which, if what we've heard is correct, Council may have contributed by wasteful (over?) use of legal representation. 


It also seems to us that a fundamental in this cost-explosion was legal advice Council apparently had to NOT present the plebiscite it had showing strong community opposition to pokies in Romsey at the VCAT hearing which approved the pokies. Council's subsequent appeal against the VCAT decision to the Supreme Court, whilst successful, was marred by the Court's findings that the blunder of not presenting the plebiscite to VCAT contributed to VCAT and Supreme Court costs incurred by the applicant for the pokies, costs which Council was ordered to pay.  If Council did have such legal advice, is any attempt going to be made to recover some of the costs incurred as a result of that advice? 


As for the pokies' expenditure data, this came from a Victorian Gaming Expenditure Data report for the years 2005/6, 2006/7 and 2007/8 in an article published in last Saturday's Herald Sun.  In additional to the dismal news that more and more money is pouring into existing pokies in the Shire, as a whole the State-wide statistics in the expenditure data report are sickening.  Take a look at Victorian Gaming Expenditure Data - the amounts are, well, in our view are bordering on obscene.  What do you think?


Romsey Pokies:  Disaster For Ratepayers As Council Error Sees Shire Cop Hotel Owner's Costs For Supreme Court Case And Failed VCAT Decision

(22/4/08 - E)  The gloss definitely comes off Council's win as the Supreme Court (Court of Appeal) rules Council should have submitted the Romsey plebiscite results to VCAT.  It didn't.  Council (and ratepayers) will now wear the pokie applicant's VCAT and Court costs.

Macedon Ranges Shire has been served a financial king-hit by the (Supreme) Court of Appeal, and now has to wear not only its own legal costs but also those of the applicant for pokies.


In a nutshell, the original application for pokies went before the Victorian Commission for Gambling Regulation [VCGR] and was refused, in part because Council presented the results of a plebiscite taken in Romsey as evidence of substantial community opposition to pokies.  When the applicant for pokies appealed the VCGR refusal at VCAT, Council did not put the plebiscite forward as evidence, and nor did VCGR appear at the hearing in support of its refusal.  VCAT overturned the VCGR refusal and instead approved the pokies application.  Council subsequently successfully challenged VCAT's approval in the Supreme Court.  The Court found VCAT erred in law in approving the application for pokies at the Romsey Hotel because VCAT hasn't taken community opposition into account.  The Court said VCAT should have considered community opposition and the adverse social impacts the pokies would create regardless of whether or not evidence was placed before it, and set the VCAT decision aside.  However, on 16 April 2008 the Court found Council contributed to the problem by not submitting the Romsey plebiscite to VCAT, particularly when the VCGR, which had accepted the results of the plebiscite in its refusal of the pokies application, did not appear at VCAT.  


The Court has now ordered Council to pay costs incurred by the pokie applicant in contesting the (now) over-ruled VCAT decision (money thrown away), AND in contesting Council's appeal against the VCAT decision in the Supreme Court.  You can find the Court's decision at


MRRA Says:


One step forward, at least one step back.  Will we ever have a genuine success story from our Council?  Why does it feel like anything good happens almost by accident?


Council's challenge to the VCAT decision was, in MRRA's view, the right move, as was the plebiscite in Romsey.  The Supreme Court's decision in setting aside the VCAT decision and the principles it established in doing so have major benefits not only to towns within Macedon Ranges Shire, but across Victoria. 




Why can't Council seem to make ALL the right moves, all the time, instead of making a dog's breakfast of things?  Council clearly blundered when it decided to not put the plebiscite forward at VCAT, so why didn't it, and who made that decision?  The Supreme Court then saw Council as trying to recover from this blunder by challenging in the Supreme Court.  As it turns out, Council was upheld in law, but dropped the ball big-time on process, including by first asking for costs then changing its mind.  That's why ratepayers now have to pay.


Spending money in the community's interests to produce broad community benefits is one thing, carelessly or stupidly wasting it is another. 


So MRRA withdraws our elephant stamp of approval, and instead assigns a largish black mark to Council.  And we'll award 100 black marks to anyone at Council who still thinks it can perpetrate an even bigger blunder by going ahead with the money-waster of all time, the Kyneton indoor pool.  Politics, not economics are driving this project.  Now that's really wasting money...


Supreme Court Throws Out VCAT Approval Of Romsey Pokies As An "Error In Law"

(20/3/08 - C)  Decision defines community well-being and rules that applications for pokies that undermine well-being (e.g. what the community wants) shouldn't be approved. This has ramifications across the State and brings into question at least one other VCAT decision - the "Branbeau" case

The Supreme Court of Victoria (Court of Appeal) yesterday delivered its decision in response to Macedon Ranges Shire Council's appeal against VCAT's approval of pokies in Romsey's only hotel.  VCAT (before then President, Justice Stuart Morris), earlier overturned a refusal of the pokies by the Victorian Commission for Gambling Regulation.  The Court of Appeal has now said VCAT erred in law, and has set that decision aside.  If the applicant for the pokies wishes to pursue the machines, the application must go back to VCAT for a new decision. 


At Paragraph 40 of its decision, the Court of Appeal said "In our view, the Tribunal [VCAT] erred in law when it disregarded the evidence of community opposition to the proposed introduction of gaming machines... community opposition was a relevant consideration, that is, a matter which the Tribunal was bound to take into account..."


And at 43 and 44, "'Social impact' means the impact on the society or community (or some part or parts of it), in which the gaming machines are proposed to be located.  The 'well-being' of a community is a very broad concept.  Dictionary definitions indicate that wellbeing is to be measured (at least) by the extent to which the community is healthy, happy, contented and/or prosperous.  It follows, in our view, that if the approval of gaming at particular premises is likely to cause unhappiness or discontent in that community (or any part or parts of it), that consequence is a 'social impact of approval' which will be 'detrimental to the well-being of the community'.  It will be detrimental to well-being because it diminishes the citizens' sense of happiness with, or contentment in, their community.  (Evidence tending to show a detriment of that kind as the likely or probably consequence of approval must, therefore, be taken into account by the decision-maker, and will depend upon the nature, extent and cogency of the evidence.)"


And at 54, "The fact that the Gambling Regulation Act allows gaming to occur in approved premises does not mean that any Victorian community is obliged to accept gaming machines."


This landmark finding opens the door for communities to voice their opposition to pokies, and for that opposition to have to be considered in the decision-making process - something the Supreme Court seems to be saying should have been happening in any event, and which it has now identified as not happening in Justice Stuart Morris' decisions for Macedon Ranges, and the 'famous' Branbeau case. 


The Court of Appeal further found that VCAT's determination on the planning scheme's 'strip shopping centre' definition (and VCAT's determination that pokies were not prohibited in Romsey because Romsey was not a 'strip shopping centre', as defined) was also an error in law, in that VCAT did not have the jurisdiction to make such a determination. 


The CoA found at 89, "Since the purported decisions of the Tribunal on the questions were outside the Tribunal's jurisdiction, they have no legal validity at all.  Accordingly, no appeal lies..."  and struck out Council's appeals against these determinations.


The CoA went on to say at 90, "This conclusion, though inescapable, is in some ways regrettable.  The Tribunal gave detailed consideration to the planning questions and it would no doubt have been of assistance to those practising in the planning field had this Court been able to express views as to the correctness (or otherwise) of what his Honour said.  But for the reasons given, we are simply unable to do so." 


And at 91, "In the circumstances it is important to emphasize that the answers which His Honour purported to give to the planning questions have no legal validity and should be disregarded.  They have no force, persuasive or otherwise, in the planning jurisdiction.  How the 'strip shopping centre' definition is to be interpreted and applied must await a suitable case raising that issue for consideration."


Click here to see the Court's full decision, or download from Austlii

CoA = Court of Appeal, Supreme Court

His Honour = Justice Stuart Morris, VCAT

Tribunal = VCAT

Branbeau = Branbeau Pty Ltd v Victorian Commission of Gambling Regulation


MRRA Says:


Putting cats amongst pigeons may not have as high a potential to make feathers fly as this decision does! 


The decision redefines and reinforces the community's right to be a party to decision-making processes for pokies, and at last confirms and enables a community's view to carry weight in those decisions.  The CoA recognizes that the Gambling Commission, in its refusal to allow pokies in Romsey, properly considered community views as part of its consideration of social impacts and diminished well-being, but that VCAT didn't, not only for Romsey, but also the Branbeau case.  This, combined with the Court's finding that while gaming is ALLOWED, Victorian communities are not OBLIGED to accept gaming machines, empowers communities and turns the until-now accepted thinking, that of communities being at the mercy of economic arguments and pokie 'barons', on its head.


Well done, Court of Appeal.


We also say 'well done' to Macedon Ranges Shire and former CE Ian Morris for pursuing this, albeit at a considerable financial cost to the community.  It seems however it may be money well spent, because in return for that financial outlay, communities within this Shire (and across the State) are no longer at the same risk of being picked off by gambling interests, or of having small towns devastated by the crippling social and financial impacts of the pokie scourge.


All of this points to the next step for Council being a plebiscite of Woodend residents, as was done in Romsey.  After all, the whisper is that an application for pokies in Woodend is imminent.  The time to act is now.


Romsey Pokies Supreme Court Hearing Over

(4/12/07 - P)  Now we wait

The Supreme Court hearing where Macedon Ranges' Council is appealing against VCAT's decision to approve a permit for pokies in Romsey is over.  Reports on how it went vary.  It seems success hinges on two elements - the plebiscite taken in Romsey, and VCAT's interpretation of the planning scheme definition of strip shopping centre.  One report is that the Court has suggested that if it found VCAT had mis-interpreted the planning scheme provision, Council would win.  However, if it came down to whether Council should win based on the plebiscite, the fact that Council didn't submit it to VCAT is worrying, because although an argument has apparently been mounted by Council that VCAT should have considered it whether or not it was submitted, the Court has warned Council it could wear the permit applicant's Supreme Court costs even if a permit for the pokies is not allowed.  Those costs would be considerable.

MRRA Says:

Guess we all need to cross our fingers that this doesn't turn out to be another blunder for Council - a win-lose situation - because of decisions made going into the VCAT hearing.  On the other hand, we would like to know if VCAT will wear Council's costs if the Court finds VCAT was wrong in its interpretation of strip shopping centre.


Supreme Court Says Council Can Appeal VCAT's Romsey Pokies Decision

(31/3/07 - P)  Suddenly there's hope, as we set off once again on the Yellow Brick Road seeking justice

The Supreme Court yesterday granted Council leave to appeal against Justice Stuart Morris' decision to allow pokies in Romsey's only hotel.  This decision signals that the Court considered Council had a legitimate case to argue, and the matter will now proceed to a hearing.


MRRA Says:


To say everyone dropped the ball on this one might be an understatement!  Let's see, we can flog VCAT for a convoluted decision, Council for not throwing everything it had at the VCAT case, and the State government for not providing a definition that recognises rural towns aren't suburbs.  But now there's another chance to get it right...


In his January 2007 VCAT decision, Justice Stuart Morris' opinion, that the Romsey town centre didn't qualify as a 'strip shopping centre' (as defined in State planning policy), tugged at the limits of credibility.  The argument put barely seemed to have anything to do with Romsey and a person could probably be forgiven for wondering why on earth the good Justice seemed to burrow down remote-sounding holes in coming to a conclusion.  


As from last October, Macedon Ranges Planning Scheme has prohibited pokies in all 'strip shopping centres' in the Shire.  Here's the official State definition of a strip shopping centre as it appears in State policy:

"A strip shopping centre is an area that meets all of the following requirements:

Most of us would consider that Romsey meets all of these requirements.  However Justice Morris very much disagreed and determined that Romsey failed on requirement 3 because it did not have a 'significant' proportion of shops, ergo, it isn't a 'strip shopping centre' (where pokies would have been prohibited).  And that, in a nutshell, is how Romsey got pokies.  Click here for an extract of Justice Morris' argument about the strip shopping centre definition.  Click here for the full VCAT decision.


Of course, Council didn't help its own case at VCAT by somehow concluding it shouldn't put the community's views, recorded in a plebiscite, on the table.  Isn't that a bit like taking the dog out for a walk, but forgetting to take the dog? 


And then there is the State government's definition of strip shopping centre - and the holes Justice Morris picked in it - which points to a need for the State government to give a little more thought to the definition if it is to continue to be applied outside metropolitan Melbourne; to how country towns operate; and to the appropriateness of the definition, as it stands, when applied in a rural context.  Otherwise it could be speculated that every little hamlet in Victoria is at risk of having pokies jammed into it.  It is also a disgrace that State policy somehow allows pokies to be approved in the only hotel in a rural town, neatly extinguishing choice.  Back to the drawing board, we suggest.  Economies and communities are more fragile and vulnerable in the country, so we'd like a lot more safeguards for rural Victoria please...


MRRA hopes things go well at the Supreme Court hearing, and that the Court finds, as we do, that the VCAT decision tends to over-exercise the imagination.  Macedon Ranges Shire is handing over a lot of ratepayers' money to fund the Supreme Court appeal so it is in the Shire's and ratepayers' best interests for Council to comprehensively win its case, which would then stand as a precedent to stop more poker machines insidiously invading our small towns.


Romsey Residents Face Another Battle Over Pokies

(23/5/06 - P)  Reports of applicant taking Romsey pokies refusal to VCAT

MRRA understands the applicant for pokie machines in the Romsey Hotel is to challenge the Gaming Commission's recent refusal of the machines at VCAT.  After already spending almost two years fighting and successfully defending a 'No Pokies' position, residents and opponents of pokies in Romsey now face another battle putting their case in support of the Commission's refusal before the Tribunal - and convincing VCAT to agree.


Gaming Commission Finds Romsey Is 'Too Rural' For Pokies Right Now

(9/5/06 - P) But what happens if the town grows?

Residents in Romsey are celebrating the Gaming Commission's recent decision to refuse an application for pokies in the town's hotel.  Unusually, the Commission based its decision on two key findings.  The first was that the community had clearly stated it did not want poker machines (via a plebiscite), and the second was that, according to local policies in Macedon Ranges' planning scheme, Romsey is, and is intended to remain, a rural township within a predominantly rural area.  This reasoning, while welcome, somewhat cuts across the findings of Justice Stuart Morris in the (now famous) Brambeau case. The Commission's conclusion was that Romsey was different from towns like Kyneton, Woodend and Gisborne on the Calder Corridor, and the main impacts of pokies in Romsey, if approved, would fall on the local, as opposed to tourist, population.  From that perspective, pokies were unacceptable.  For now. 


You can find the Commission's decision by clicking  and going to 'Romsey' on the list of decisions displayed on the page.


Romsey Pokies Get Works Approval From VCAT

(1/6/05 - P) State ‘rules’ say ‘Yes’, again prevail over Council and community ‘No’

Even though Council and the Romsey community have said they don’t want them, the STATE planning rules say the Romsey Hotel doesn’t need a planning permit for pokies.  And now VCAT has overturned Council’s decision to refuse a planning permit for works needed to accommodate the pokies at the Romsey Hotel, and has reduced on-site parking from the 105 spaces required by the planning scheme to 38.


MRRA Says:

While the Minister for Planning tells us “planning is the core business of local government”, here’s yet another example of State rules trampling all over what is wanted LOCALLY.  If planning is so very local, how come we can’t write our own local ‘rules’ and have our local decisions ‘stick’ at VCAT?   Because only the State government can write ‘rules’, and State ‘rules’ will beat what’s wanted locally every time.  Indeed, this is one of the reasons why Council and MRRA have asked the Minister for help – we need different rules in Macedon Ranges and the Minister is the only one who can give them to us.  The Minister has said he won’t.





Pokies For Campaspe House In Woodend On The Way?

(4/12/07 - P)  The rumour is an application is pending

Not much information yet on this but the whisper is that an application will be made to install poker machines at Campaspe House, until now a fairly high class restaurant off the beaten path in Goldies Lane.  If correct, the problem is that Campaspe House is in a residential zone and could never be considered part of a strip shopping centre, and so poker machines aren't a prohibited use under the planning scheme.  Looks like Woodend residents who want to Keep Woodend Pokie Free need to be on high alert.