News

Rehab refused

By Gus McCubbing

Tears of joy flowed in the Mitchell Shire Council chambers on Monday night when council rejected a proposal to transform the Trawool Resort into a drug rehabilitation centre.

Thirteen No Rehab @ Resort members attended the meeting and celebrated after Mayor Rhonda Sanderson cast the deciding vote.

No Rehab @ Resort founder Elaine Lavender said the eight-week long campaign against the proposal to use the land at 8150 Goulburn Valley Hwy for a respite and recovery centre had brought the community together.

‘‘It caused undue stress to all, as the lifestyle we have all chosen could have been changed forever by council’s decision,” she said.

‘‘We feel elated now because our personal security, along with those who traverse the Great Victorian Rail Trail, will not be at risk.’’

Kevin Owen, also a member of the No Rehab @ Resort group, said while there was a need for drug rehabilitation centres in regional Victoria, this proposal was not appropriate.

‘‘It’s a good decision by council to refuse the application in the hope that a proper place for rehabilitation and assistance for drug or alcohol-affected people can be found where they will have a proper chance to re-enter mainstream living,’’ he said.

‘‘But from my own experience having a drug-affected child, the facility that was proposed was inadequate and improper for that purpose.’’

The applicants, Eastern Access Community Health, now have the right to appeal council’s decision at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

Rebecca Fagan, who lives on an adjoining property to the proposed rehabilitation centre, said the decision would be a relief for local residents — most of whom are retirees.

‘‘Hopefully this puts the issue to bed for the community, who has been really upset about this,’’ she said.

‘‘I think the councillors have been really honourable in their alternative motion and listening to the people.’’

Cr Sanderson said council had carefully considered both the planning application and the 53 submissions received from the community.

‘‘[Council] made the decision to refuse the application as we believe it did not meet a range of planning requirements such as fitting in with the amenity of the area,’’ Cr Sanderson said.

The application made by not-for-profit organisation EACH proposed to use the Trawool Resort for a voluntary drug and rehabilitation program for men and women with drug and alcohol problems who had already completed a minimum of seven to 10 days detox.

The centre would accommodate a maximum of 40 clients, starting with 20 for the first two years, with maximum treatment periods of 14 weeks, variable depending on personal circumstances. It was proposed to be staffed 24 hours a day, with support workers residing overnight.

But on Monday night council issued a Notice of Refusal to grant the planning permit, introduced by Cr Bob Humm, in compliance with the relevant sections of the Planning and Environment Act 1987.

According to council, the proposal was inconsistent with the Mitchell Planning Scheme as the development would not integrate appropriately with the existing character of the surrounding neighbourhood and would not represent proper and orderly planning.

Furthermore, council decided the proposal could cause unreasonable impact on the amenity of the area; would lead to unacceptable safety and security concerns for patrons and staff and users of the Great Victorian Rail Trail; and is at odds with its vision to encourage uses that promote and assist local tourist attractions and visitation.

EACH could not be reached before deadline regarding this decision, but at a previous council meeting the organisation’s chief executive Peter Ruzyla said clients would come to the resort ‘‘fully dry and detoxed’’.

‘‘They’ve been part of our risk assessment and screening, to be sure as best as possible we can select people who are suitable and appropriate for the experience and the opportunity for recovery we’re going to offer them,’’ he said.