Gambling and open spaces policies on RLC agenda

Members of the Rotorua Lakes Council. Photo/Andrew Warner/NZME

Gambling, recreational spaces and additional delegations for Pukehangi Heights commissioners will be discussed and decided upon at a Rotorua Lakes Council meeting tomorrow.

The council will consider whether to implement minor wording changes to the council’s Gambling Policy, following the replacement of the Racing Act 2003 with the Racing Industry Act 2020.

In a report prepared for the October 8 Strategy, Policy and Finance Committee by the council's strategic development manager Rosemary Viskovic, the new act did not change the requirements for territorial authorities to have policies on the issue.

In September this year, there were 389 gambling machines and one TAB venue in the Rotorua district, although there were only 365 machines in operation, Viskovic’s report states.

In her report, Viskovic says the council’s gambling policy significantly reduced the number of venues and gambling machines in its first five years of operation, “the reductions have been far less in the last five years”.

“The number of venues and gambling machines has remained at around the same level since 2010. The actual number of gambling machines licenced is 389, which is still above the cap of 380 set in 2004.”

A council review on how the policy was working found the annual average non-club gambling machine proceeds were $18.85 million.

“Although 40 per cent [of proceeds] had to be distributed to the community, only 22 per cent was distributed back to the community in the Rotorua district itself (or $4.7m out of $7.54m),” Viskovic’s report says.

The council will decide whether to implement actions to better gather data on that distribution and encourage more of those proceeds to go back into the Rotorua community.

The council will also consider whether to put its draft Open Spaces Policy out for public consultation.

The policy outlines the council’s approach to the provision and development of its open space network - defined by the council as all land under its control set apart for public recreation.

A report prepared for the October 8 committee meeting by council recreation planner Stephanie Kelly states the council’s only level of service policy for open spaces was included in the Reserves Structures Policy. 

It required a playground to be within a 500m catchment of at least 95 per cent of residential properties within the urban area.

That had previously been sufficient, Kelly’s report stated, but with projected growth and development increases, there was “a need for clear policy guidance” on the issue.

Thursday’s meeting will also see the council consider whether to provide additional delegations to commissioners appointed for the hearing of Plan Change 2 - Pukehangi Heights.

Commissioners David Hill, Antoine Coffin and Rob van Voorthuysen were appointed as hearing commissioners at the end of August.

Their duties were to determine, control and conduct the hearing for Plan Change 2 and make recommendations to the Environment Minister on the provisions and matters raised in submissions, as the district plan change was progressed under a streamlined planning process.

A report prepared for tomorrow's meeting by council senior policy advisor Kim Smith says a key aspect of that streamlined process was the Minister had the final decision on the plan change and it removed the usual opportunity for submitters to appeal the decision to the Environment Court.

“The recommended delegation would address the possibility that the Minister refers the plan change back to [the] council for further consideration. 

"It would allow the commissioners to recommend, directly to the Minister, changes to the plan change to address any matters raised.”

Smith’s report says in this case, the commissioners were better placed to consider and respond to the matters raised as they were familiar with the specific details of the plan change, hearing process and were working on behalf of the council.

The council will also consider two items in a public excluded section of the meeting, including one regarding an “economic recovery project”.

The meeting will be held in the Council Chambers tomorrow from 9.30am and is open to the public.

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