Tensions high as liquor petition is presented

BELATED efforts to prevent construction of a Dan Murphy’s liquor outlet on the corner of York and Cunninghame Sts, Sale, took the form of a 549 signature petition, presented to Wellington Shire Council on Tuesday.

The petition asked council to halt the construction of the proposed store and have Dan Murphy’s pay for an independent investigation to prove the store would not contribute to problems caused by alcohol abuse or have an economic impact on locally owned businesses.

Although all council’s responsibilities and powers in the matter had been completed in August when the Planning Minister’s decision was gazetted, council accepted the petition and allowed petition instigator John McLinden to address the council.

The gazetting of the Planning Minister’s decision meant all rights of appeal had expired, and the timing and delivery of the proposed development was now in the hands of the proponents FR Perry and Associates on behalf of R and C Property Investments.

Describing the petition as one of the most important issues in Sale’s recent history, likening it to Sale winning three consecutive football premierships, Mr McLinden said, “I think people would sooner have a better, safer society than a Dan Murphy’s”.

“We know there is a hell of a lot of opposition to Dan Murphy’s going in that particular spot,” he said.

Mr McLinden accused the councillors of being senseless in allowing the planning application.

He then went on to make unsubstantiated accusations of councillors being in the pay of Woolworths, of having made the decision to allow the permit behind closed doors and of the process being a done deal from the beginning.

“I’m not talking just about the council meeting when you voted, I think it was a done deal long before that wasn’t it?” he said.

Mr McLinden then went on to accuse the council of having made its decisions illegally and through an invalid process because of the placement of the planning permit application on the site, and called on council to go back to the start of the application process.

“You just want, council just wants this Dan Murphy’s to go ahead one way or another.

“But I can tell you it has got to be invalid because it has not been advertised properly,” he said.

“ … by hook or by crook this council wants Dan Murphy’s to go here.’’

Ignoring Mayor Scott Rossetti’s efforts to restore order, Mr McLinden called on council to appoint a committee of Liquor Accord members who had opposed the planning application and himself to speak to Woolworths and ask them to shift Dan Murphy’s.

“Woolworths has heaps of money, I don’t know how much they have thrown at you fellows either,” he interjected before Cr Rossetti managed to prevent him further defaming councillors.

Cr Rossetti pointed out the times and processes used in making the decision were clearly set out in the agenda and strongly refuted Mr McLinden’s claims.

“For the record, we absolutely reject any assertions of council being paid off,” Cr Rossetti said, only to be interrupted by Mr McLinden saying he apologised if he was wrong.

In summing up, Cr Darren McCubbin pointed out not all of the community was opposed to the development of a Dan Murphy’s on the site, referring to the Gippsland Times’ Facebook page where numerous comments on the issue were displayed.

He reiterated council had followed all the correct procedures, and that the recommendations of the Independent Planning Panel had been debated thoroughly in a rancourous meeting.

“As far as council is concerned the issue is closed,” Cr McCubbin said.

“The time for any sorts of appeals has run out, the permit has been approved by the state government, the liquor licence, it is my understanding, has also been approved,” he said.

“In terms of council’s role in this, that has ended.”

Mr McLinden refused to accept those comments and rushed to his feet, interjecting the

Independent Planning Panel was “part of a big window dress, a big window dress; they wouldn’t have known anything about Sale, those people.”

“Why weren’t the hotels involved in this right from the start?

“You bought that … put the cart before the horse.

“You’ve locked us out of it now,” he told council.

Cr Rossetti restored order and Mr McLinden resumed his seat in the gallery.

The meeting’s agenda notes pointed out that in reaching its decision to allow the planning application council had considered the original application on April 4, 2012, exhibited the application for public comment in July and August 2012, and received a total of 11 submissions, including seven objections.

Following consideration of submissions, council referred all submissions to an Independent Planning Panel which recommended that the planning permit be issued (subject to minor changes).

Council supported the panel’s recommendation and forwarded it to the Planning Minister for final approval.