Disheartened over liquor store debate

HAVING attended the recent Wellington Shire Council meeting to listen to the reasoning for and against the planned Dan Murphy’s site on the corner of Cunninghame and York Sts, I came away unsure of the role of our elected councillors.

The arguments against the site being there were compelling and surprisingly, there were no arguments for the site being there other than “the law allows it”.

Whilst there are obvious social impact statistics that clearly indicate that Sale does not need another liquor outlet, the traffic issues that this will cause are potentially catastrophic.

To put a large liquor outlet at one of Sale’s busiest intersections which is already congested by traffic to fast food outlets McDonalds and Red Rooster, and with IGA Supermarket, Centrelink, Sale Post Office, Sale RSL and Sale College less than 150 metres away, it will be a disaster.

However, the main point is that the site is next door to our ambulance station.

This will certainly have a negative impact on our ambulance and paramedics getting to accident and emergency sites in the quickest possible time.

Given the guaranteed high traffic that Dan Murphy’s will attract, all the money that VicRoads can invest into that corner will not eliminate this added risk.

The first time someone is seriously injured either on that corner or out on our roads or farms and our ambulance and paramedics have difficulty getting onto the highway to ensure quick attendance, it will be too late to say “we got it wrong”.

A question we must ask ourselves is if there was no strong reasoning for the site (other than the law allows it) did the councillors who voted for the site consider the safety of our people before making their decision?

I must say that the meeting was well organised and all presenters were given a good hearing.

However the cynic in me can’t help but feel the build up that finally led to the four-three vote being in favour of the Dan Murphy site was orchestrated and somewhat theatrical.

Even after a letter from the Sale Ambulance Station expressing their concerns about the traffic issue was presented at the meeting, it did not appear to have any bearing on the final votes.

It was interesting to note that the councillors who voted for the Dan Murphy proposal do not live in the Sale township.

I can’t help but wonder what the result would be if the proposed site was out of town.

The councillor who proposed the acceptance of the motion to approve the site (who also said he did not believe that Sale needed any more liquor outlets), said that councillors should show courage and not let emotion control their vote, and vote on what the planning recommendations and the rules allowed.

He said that it was not council’s job to vote for what’s best for our community, but to vote for the rules.

He went on to say that if they didn’t vote for it then VCAT would overrule them anyway.

I cannot agree with this at all.

We elect our councillors to look after our community and to do what is best for it, not to roll over because they may get overruled down the track.

In their role, I think that we would all expect and hope that our councillors would show courage and always vote on what is best for our community.

Rather than to avoid the battle ahead, they need to come up with solutions and alternatives needed to win the battle.

If Sale has to have another liquor outlet (in this case Dan Murphy’s) then let’s put it in the right place.

People will still drive to Dan Murphy’s if it is in another location.

Building it on what is one of the busiest intersections in town and next to our ambulance station, is clearly not a decision based on what is good for our town.

We can only hope that, in this case, VCAT gathers all the information and makes a sensible decision.

Yes, miracles do happen.

Make up your own mind.

Editor’s note: The letter ‘from the Sale Ambulance Station’ referred to is from a local ambulance team manager, first read out at Tuesday’s council meeting. Ambulance Victoria did not oppose the rezoning of the land which will pave the way for the establishment of a Dan Murphy’s liquor store on the site.