By KATH GANNAWAY
A GROUP of Warburton residents has launched a petition opposing plans to set up a drug rehabilitation centre near Warburton Primary School.
As reported in the Mail in June, the proposal is to relocate a Narconon drug treatment centre from East Warburton to Green Gables, which currently run as a conference centre, just a few hundred metres from the school.
The Association for Better Living and Education (ABLE) which runs Narconon has applied to Yarra Ranges Council for planning permits for an education facility.
Under the ‘SayNoNarcononWarburton’ banner, the group of around 10 residents has mounted a campaign which aims to inform the wider community and build support to stop the relocation.
Opposition to the proposal has grown over the past two months, with some residents who attended a consultation meeting between ABLE and objectors on 22 August saying their concerns around risk management increased rather than decreased following the meeting.
“They don’t seem to be accountable to anyone, either as a health or education provider,” said group member Nicole who claimed representatives of Narconon who spoke at the meeting were ‘evasive’ and unable to provide their policy on aspects of their operation such as the ratio of staff to residents.
They say they were concerned that the only security measures put forward to ensure residents remained on the property was a roll call and have rejected suggestions of security fencing, saying it is not suitable in residential area and would turn adjoining properties into prisons.
Yarra Ranges Council has confirmed that while Victoria Police are not a statutory referral authority in this particular application, they did notify Victoria Police who have made a submission.
The group has distributed over 2000 postcards to Warburton and Millgrove and manned a table at the school during the federal election voting which they estimate generated a further 155 written objections.
They are objecting on the grounds of traffic congestion, the perception of safety around the school and the potential detriment to school enrolments and staffing.
Members of the group told the Mail they were also concerned about property values and said some residents had already left the area.
“We are not opposed to what Narconon do in East Warburton, we are opposed to the locality beside a primary school,” said spokesman Paul Jackson.
ABLE spokesperson Dr Nerida James said the organisation would issue an official statement addressing the safety issues to Yarra Ranges, to the public, and to the Mail by 26 September, but were unable to comment earlier.
Yarra Ranges council has confirmed submissions can still be made in relation to the application.