A guest post by Neil Miller:
Wellington City Councillor Rebecca Matthews should apologise to the Wellington hospitality and gaming industry for her unfounded allegation that venues with pokies machines had to frequently change chairs because gambling patrons “regularly” urinated on themselves rather than give up their seat.
I was immediately suspicious of this claim which she used to justify a ‘sinking lid’ policy for pokie machines. None of the six publicans I called had experienced this issue even once over many years. They also did not know of any others who had to constantly change urine-soaked chairs.
To find out the Councillor’s evidence for her comment, which was made in an official meeting and received media coverage, I sent in a request under the Local Government Official Information and Meeting Act 1987. To their credit, both Councillor Matthews and the Wellington City Council responded quickly.
However, that was because there was very little to report.
Councillor Matthews said “this was reported to me from a friend a few years ago who was researching the gaming industry in Auckland.”
The Acting Head of Assurance at Wellington City Council declined my request for the evidence behind Councillor Matthews’ claim saying “the Council does not hold any information relating to your request.” The only material they held on urination in gaming lounges was Councillor Matthews’ own statement.
In my opinion, after a long time working in the political arena, “a few years ago a friend said it might have happened in Auckland” is one of the weakest justifications I have ever seen for a significant policy in Wellington.
For the record, I support the sinking lid policy. However, decisions as important as this should be based on evidence, not an old anecdote which besmirches a whole industry.
Councillor Matthews should withdraw her comment and apologise.
You can email Cr Matthews here – Rebecca.firstname.lastname@example.org
Neil Miller is a former hospitality journalist and was New Zealand Beer Writer of the Year.
Disclaimer: Neil has an interest in the award-winning brewpub Fork & Brewer. The Fork has never had pokie machines.