Booze busted


Campaigners say another bottle shop will create more problems…

DANDENONG has many needs but more alcohol outlets is not one of them.
This was the reaction from Cornerstone co-ordinator Don Cameron to a City of Greater Dandenong decision on Monday night to approve a new Liquorland store at Dandenong Plaza.
“The new venture might be profitable for the landlord and governments who collect taxes,” Mr Cameron said.
“But it will be extremely costly for people in our community as alcohol contributes to road trauma, street violence and broken families.
“There are many places people can buy alcohol in Dandenong and we certainly don’t need any more.”
Through his experience at the outreach service he’s seen alcohol cause the greatest problems of any drug.
“Alcohol is marketed to young and/or vulnerable people saying it will help them ’party’, help them ’relax’ or help them get over negative experiences,” he said.
“But the truth is alcohol only contributes to the problems.”
Shane Varcoe from Dandenong’s Dalgarno Institute, a coalition targeting the adverse impact of alcohol and drug use, said new bulk alcohol distribution outlets were always concerning in communities with alcohol misuse issues.
Mr Varcoe said it was also a concern that the proposal had support from “the very people elected by the City of Greater Dandenong to help our community be a safer, healthier and more family-amenable place to live”.
Dandenong Salvation Army Captain Stuart McGifford said many Salvation Army clients in the area found it difficult to avoid alcohol as it became more available.
“For those who try to maintain moderation or suffer from alcohol addiction, simply walking past a bottle shop can be an irresistible temptation,” he said.
“It’s pleasing to note that the councillors paused to consider the impact on the wider community but we acknowledge that it is difficult to refuse a reasonable request to sell a legally available drug.”
Councillor Matthew Kirwan opposed the application.
“We already know that there’s antisocial behaviour and violence problems due to alcohol consumption in central Dandenong,” he said.
“The best mitigation you can take ever is to not create a problem in the first place.”
But Cr Peter Brown said the application was a very good one.
“Within the footprint of the Dandenong Plaza you’ve got an outstanding retail facility for a number of uses,” he said.
“It would be difficult to find a better way for alcohol to be marketed to customers.”
Cr Brown and Crs O’Reilly, Truong, Sampey and Chea voted for the proposal while Crs Blades and Kirwan voted against it.
The permit allows a portion of the Coles supermarket within the shopping centre to become a Liquorland outlet which will operate 9am to 10pm every day.
There are two other packaged liquor outlets within 500 metres of the site, another Liquorland within 600 metres, and a TAB adjacent to the store.
“Concerns raised in discussions with Victoria Police include that there are ongoing issues with drinking in public outside the TAB,” a council report on the application said.
It said existing CCTV cameras would mitigate this concern.
The council’s Social Planning Unit raised concerns about the impact of the proposal on community wellbeing and safety.
“Central Dandenong contains a relatively high density of various types of licensed premises, which can have a cumulative effect in terms of antisocial behaviour and public perceptions of safety,” the report said.
But it said staff adhering to an alcohol management plan would deal with these concerns.
“It is considered that the potential benefits, such as economic activity and employment, outweigh the possible negative impact on the amenity of the area,” it said.
A Coles spokesman said the company took its liquor licensing responsibilities very seriously.
“We work hard with our teams and the authorities to provide stores that bring choice and value to customers but are also a positive part of the local community,” he said.
“Liquorland is committed to the responsible service, sale and promotion of liquor and we have in place strong policies and procedures in support of this commitment.”