Tauranga’s gambling policy has been adopted despite a warning it wouldn’t reduce gambling harm.
The major change means gambling venues will be able to relocate away from residential areas, especially where there is high deprivation.
The previous policy prevented venues from moving, unless there was a catastrophic event, such as a fire or flood.
Gambling venues wanting to relocate will only be able to move to commercial or industrial zones that are more than 100m away from residential zones, with a deprivation index of 8 to 10. The deprivation index measures an area’s socioeconomic status, with 10 being the least well-off.
The policy was adopted at a Tauranga City Council Strategy Finance and Risk Committee meeting on Monday.
Tauranga has 32 venues with pokie machines and four TABs.
As of June, there were 469 pokie machines in the city. Around 63 per cent of Tauranga’s gambling venues are in medium- to high-deprivation areas.
During hearings in November, Toi Te Ora public Health representative Rachel Jordan said gambling was a significant public health issue that caused harm to individuals, whānau and communities.
”We are concerned that the changes proposed by the council will not reduce gambling harm in Tauranga.”
Allowing venues to relocate would undermine the sinking lid policy to reduce gambling harm, she said.
A sinking lid policy meant when a Class 4 (pokie) gambling venue closed, consent wouldn’t be given to reopen another venue.
Electronic gambling machines were mainly located in higher-deprivation areas and gambling harm affected the most vulnerable community members, Jordan said.
”We [Toi Te Ora] recommend that council strictly enforces its sinking lid policy and does not allow relocation of venues and gambling machines,” Jordan said.
Commissioner Stephen Selwood said by not allowing venues to relocate to lower-deprivation areas, licensed venues could cling on in high-deprivation areas.
Jared True, of the Gaming Machine Association of New Zealand, said the relocation proposal was “entirely reasonable”.
The association supported expansion of the relocation provision, especially when the move to the new site was more desirable from a harm minimisation perspective, True said.
”We should ... enable those venues to move to new suitable areas.”
At Monday’s meeting, council regulatory and compliance general manager Sarah Omundsen said submissions “overwhelmingly supported” the change.
Of the 250 submissions, 75 per cent agreed or strongly agreed with the change to enable relocations, while 14 per cent did not support it.
Reasons people gave for supporting the proposal included that the city had changed and some areas were no longer suitable, that it meant gambling venues could move to more suitable areas and buildings, and that allowing relocation to different areas may be a faster method to remove venues from areas they are likely to do more harm in.
Those opposed wanted greater restrictions to reduce the number of gambling venues to zero and said the moving of venues was unlikely to have a substantive impact on gambling harm.
Points raised during submissions and the hearings prompted the council to add a requirement that proximity of venues to sensitive locations such as schools, maraes and places of worship be considered when granting a consent to relocate a venue.
Omundsen said this was consistent with legislation.
During the hearings, Mount Business Association representative Claudia West said relocation requests should be considered on a case-by-case basis.
Social and emergency housing should be factored into where gambling venues could relocate to, she said.
Any decision should look at how many gambling venues were in an area and the distance to emergency and social housing, schools and marae, said West.
The next gambling policy review is planned for 2026.
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