ELSTERNWICK – RESIDENTIAL DRUG REHABILITATION CENTRE

We’ve been asked by a group of concerned Elsternwick residents to draw the community’s attention to a retrospective planning permit application to operate a residential* Drug Rehabilitation Centre on the former Daily Planet Brothel site – 7-12 Horne Street, Elsternwick.

The site, recently acquired by a developer, has been let and is currently  operating as a residential drug rehabilitation centre.  Residents have advised that initially Council Officers felt (mistakenly in GERA’s view) that the site’s zoning of Commercial 1 did not require a planning permit for use as a residential drug rehabilitation centre.  However, the below significant issues, raised by residents since the centre commenced operating many months ago, has resulted in a Council “re-think”.  Hence the permit (Application No. GE/CP-32039/2018) now being sought for the already operating centre.

The residents, who are currently lobbying Councillors and seeking residents support, have clearly indicated to GERA that they are not objecting to an accredited drug rehabilitation centre operating at this location.  Rather they are

  • questioning and objecting to the adequacy of the centre’s current facilities and security provisions given the nature of the services offered
  • asking that the current permit application be rejected and current operations cease.
  • seeking assurances that, should a future similar permit application be received,  appropriate facilities and security provisions are provided and the due planning approval process is followed, prior to the commencement of operations.

For those interested in supporting the residents, please note that

  • a Planning Conference will be held on 22/10/2018 at 6.30 pm in the Town Hall Theatrette. Objections may be submitted at any time prior to the Conference
  • Council is scheduled to discuss and decide the application at the 7/11/2018 Ordinary Council Meeting.

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RESIDENT’S COMMENTS

  • There was no letterbox drop. Supposedly this meets planning regulations. We are disappointed by this and we believe the community is not fully aware of what is going on around them, but are not questioning this part of the Act.
  • Council are letting them operate without a permit and were allowed to continue to do so whilst they undertook the application process. Rules for some, different for others.
  • Some of our neighbours have been given a ‘tour’ of the facility when it opened its doors WITHOUT a permit many months ago, the general consensus was that residents who attended were greatly concerned with the lack of information provided on who the operators were, what credentials they had to run a facility like this, and what safety measures would be put in place for both surrounding and internal residents. Amongst the many aspects of the venues operations, we were informed:
    • The centre is an operational drug and alcohol rehabilitation clinic.
    • Patients have moved in will live on site for up to 3 months (24/7).
    • The centre appears as a brothel and we question whether it is actually ‘habitable’.
    • They will accept anyone from heavy drug addicts (ice, heroine, MDMA, cocaine, etc) alcoholics, physiological problems to relationship issues. Such a range of conditions would require a very broad range of expert care.
    • Their application proposes 1-2 staff for every 6 patients.
    • Patients would be prescribed drugs whilst they are living on the premises and would be walking the local streets to collect these drugs themselves from the chemist.
    • Patients would be accessing the building from all possible entrances/exits (including the alley ways which access residential properties). They are free to come and go as they please.
    • No renovation work had happened inside as of June 2018, and we suspect this is still the case (directors mentioned lack of funds and no construction vehicles have been seen in the area since). It sill presents as the brothel once did (I am told and assume having never been in a brothel before). Soft furnishings still remain ( I understand they have acquired much of the furniture off the brothel), images of naked women adorned the walls, the bedrooms were kitted out with multiple beds and fully operational spa baths, mirrors etc. Not the type of environment we would have assumed would be conducive to rehabilitating patients?!
    • They have signed a 5 year lease. They implied the business had been set up by 3-4 individuals. They would not provide any clarity around who they were, what experience or qualifications (if any) they had. The ‘deal’ was proposed by one of the brothel staffers who ‘knew’ all the relevant parties and ‘set up the deal’ in his words. He still works there as of June 2018.  
    • Patients will pay $10k per month.
    • They could not clarify what security would be put in place. They said there were operational camera’s already installed however the only camera down the alleyway that accesses residential property has been seen disconnected and is facing a roof.
    • Residents and business owners have already noted windows have been smashed since the business opened and the number of ‘questionable characters’ hovering and walking the local streets and laneways has markedly increased with some residents experiencing disputes erupting from the premises that made them feel incredibly unsafe.
    • We understand that this type of establishment has very few rules/regulations around its operations.
    • Certain residents have been informed that this specific organisation is recruiting its patients from the outside the courts – offenders waiting for trial and wanting to seek bail must be enrolled into a centre like this one which will keep them out of jail.     

We appreciate the history of this site has been an interesting one but are seriously concerned with the type of clientele this facility is attracting and the lack of transparency and professionalism shown by the staff/operators.

 We would like the community to be aware of what is occurring at the ‘Daily Wellness Centre’

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UPDATE – 15/10/2018

One of our facebook readers has added the below link to our page.  It’s a 2016 Four Corners program on the private rehabilitation industry in Australia – the reader comments that very little has changed since the program aired.

http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/rehab-inc.-promo/7827128

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Footnote:

Residential = estimated duration of stays 2 – 12 weeks

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