Council to vote on shisha zone plans

Kate FieldingSouth Western Times

Mayor Gary Brennan has questioned why a proposal for a shisha area in the CBD was put out for public comment saying the development application should have been internally approved by City of Bunbury staff.

Bunbury City Council is tonight expected to vote on the plans, which propose an alfresco and designated shisha area outside Orfa Kebabs and Turkish Bakery.

Shisha involves smoking flavoured tobacco from a hookah and appears to be a growing trend in places such as Perth where several restaurants offer the service.

The council will tonight be recommended to approve the plans, subject to several conditions including no food or drink to be consumed in the area and no “third party” advertising signage (such as tobacco products or cigarettes).

The proposal was put out for public comment in March and attracted a wave of support from surrounding businesses, but objections from the WA Country Health Service, Cancer Council and South West Community Alcohol and Other Drug Services.

But during a briefing session last week, Mr Brennan said he found it “very unusual” the council was dealing with the matter and questioned why it was on the agenda.

Sustainability, planning and development manager Thor Farnworth responded that staff felt there was enough public interest with the proposal to warrant testing.

Mr Brennan told the Bunbury Herald he believed council officers should have approved the plans.

“Where possible we want our officers to use that delegated authority to keep things moving so that applicants don’t have to wait for council meetings before they get a decision,” he said.

“In this instance – and I have great respect for our officers – they decided that this was a matter that needed to be advertised when it didn’t need to be advertised.”

Mr Brennan also ruled out that the plans could spark debate over the CBD becoming smoke-free after Cr Brendan Kelly last week asked if the council was going to take “proactive steps” to ensure the city did not become “a place of smoking and booze”.

“There can be as much talk about what you want about that, however, it is highly impractical and the city has no powers to impose a blanket ban on smoking in any part of our city, let alone the CBD,” Mr Brennan said.

“The public health awareness and education program is the most effective tool and I am very much opposed to smoking, however I respect people’s rights and the State and Federal laws override any local government law.

“So let’s just focus on what we do and what we’re responsible for – we’ve got enough on our plate with the complexity of local government to get involved in areas that others might like us to.

“It’s impractical for us to even consider such a ban.”

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