Mail - Upper Yarra Mail - 10th February 2015

Page 1

Upper Yarra

8 Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Birthday bash weekend


Tree beetles hunted

A Mail Newspaper Group publication

Mail Covering the Upper Yarra Region of the Yarra Ranges Shire


Sports of all sorts

Phone: 5957 3700 Trades and Classifieds: 1300 666 808

‘No’ to Narconon By KATH GANNAWAY VCAT has supported Yarra Ranges Council’s 2014 decision to refuse a permit to relocate the Narconon/Get Off Drugs Naturally (GODN) drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre from East Warburton to Warburton township. The Say No To Narconon (SNTN) group which opposed the relocation has welcomed the decision saying it concludes a campaign that has occupied the community for almost two years, taking considerable time and resources by local community members. SNTN has also dropped a bombshell, calling for a parliamentary inquiry into the continued operations of GODN at East Warburton, saying risks that came to light during the campaign, and during the VCAT hearing, demanded a response. In a statement released this afternoon the group said the decision affirmed both the community and the council’s position that the Green Gables site in La La Avenue, was inappropriate for the proposed use. President of GODN, Dr Nerida James, responded to the decision saying the organisation is reviewing the VCAT decision, and while they are disappointed with the outcome, would decide whether they wish to comment further once they have read and considered the decision. Dr James did however respond to the call for a parliamentary inquiry, saying it would be a gross waste of taxpayers’ money and the parliament’s time. “If Say No To Narconon Warburton has concerns about Get Off Drugs Naturally’s operations near Warburton, it should contact the relevant government authorities and agencies charged with investigating the matters they raise,” she said. SNTN spokesperson, Lindy Schneider, said the decision by VCAT to refuse Narconon/GODN to run the drug and alcohol rehabilitation from

the Green Gables site in the heart of Warburton reflected the depth of consideration given by the VCAT members, and the objections lodged. In a 28-page decision delivered on 5 February, Senior Member Laurie Hewet and member Mary-Anne Taranto summarised seven days of hearings, including site inspections of the Green Gables property and the current Narconon facility, O’Shannassy Lodge in East Warburton. Expert witnesses for both sides gave evidence, along with other lay witnesses including former Narconon students and a current employee, Sgt Tom Wilkinson from Warburton Police, a representative of Warburton Primary School Council and a former Narconon employee. The members found that the treatment methods adopted under the Narconon Program and their efficacy were not matters for their scrutiny, and further rejected the proposal that it fitted into the planning scheme as an education facility. “In the present case, the real and substantial purpose of the use is the rehabilitation of people with an addiction to drugs or alcohol,” they said. They said, in the end, their consideration of the issue had to be primarily related to their assessment of the suitability of the use for the Green Gables site. They dealt with matters of risk and security, the purported localised nature of the service, the residential zoning of the site, and various other elements of the Yarra Ranges planning scheme relevant to the application. Ms Schneider said the stand-out matters raised during the hearing included the level of security proposed in order to secure the permit was evidence that the location was inappropriate, that the council could not reasonably be expected to oversee the more than 30 proposed conditions. “Based on past performance, the capacity of Narconon/GODN to meet

The Say No To Narconon community campaign has been a two-year fight for members of the Warburton Pictures: KATH GANNAWAY community. 134253 and maintain such security standards was questionable,” she said. “This affirmed both the community and the council’s established position that the Green Gables location is inappropriate,” she said.

Ms Schneider said in calling for a Parliamentary inquiry into Narconon/ GODN, SNTN does not oppose drug and alcohol rehabilitation. “We fully support and welcome facilities located in appropriate cir-

cumstances and with the necessary accreditation, evidence-based practice and accessibility our community deserves,” she said. “This has never been the case with Narconon/GODN.”


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