Dom Post reports:
A Wellington city councillor has told a select committee that local authorities should not be trusted with pokie funds – contradicting his own council.
Andy Foster told Parliament’s commerce select committee yesterday that proposed gambling reforms would leave local councils “horribly conflicted”.
The committee is hearing submissions on the Gambling (Gambling Harm Reduction) Amendment Bill, which would strip private trusts’ powers to distribute pokie funds in favour of local government.
Mr Foster, who was submitting as chairman of the Karori Brooklyn Community Charitable Trust – not as a councillor – said the bill would make councils the regulators, benefactors and distributors of pokie funds.
“There is a temptation for the council to say, ‘We are going to start favouring organisations we support’.”
Minutes later, councillor Stephanie Cook appeared before the committee to present Wellington City Council’s official view, praising the reforms and pushing for even more council powers.
MPs questioned Ms Cook over conflict of interest concerns but she replied that any conflict could be “managed”.
The status quo with the trusts is not sustainable, and I support change.
But handing tens of millions of dollars out to local body politicians to dish out to their constituents would be encouraging corruption. It is a hideous idea. Local Councillors would be able buy support. I’m with Andy Foster on this one.
I’ve not gone into this issue in depth, but one possible solution might be to have the share of profits from pokie machines set aside for community groups, to be allocated through the Lottery Grants Board? One could specify that the funds must be spent in the areas they come from, and the LGB could have regional committees to consider applications.