Expert witnesses have provided conflicting testimony on whether a drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre should be built in a residential area of Wagga.
Debgar Holdings has appealed Wagga City Council’s refusal of an application for ‘Riverina Recovery House’, a private treatment centre with 15 beds proposed for 199 Gurwood Street.
The NSW Land and Environment Court heard the case in Wagga on Tuesday before Commissioner Michael Chilcott.
Wagga registered medical practitioner Jonathan Ho and Wollongong social researcher Dr Judith Stubbs gave testimony on the management and safety plans for Riverina Recovery House.
Dr Ho said Riverina Recovery House’s “clinical model had merit” but he thought it “posed too great of a risk for a residential area”.
Under questioning from solicitor Turvey To, representing Debgar Holdings, Dr Ho said Riverina Recovery House had made “beneficial changes” to its management plan but he still considered the location too risky.
Dr Stubbs said she had interviewed residents living near treatment centres with a higher risk profile, such as housing clients who had just been released from prison, who had not suffered amenity impacts.
“I think the residents’ concerns are genuinely held but their fears are also unfounded,” she said.
The court also heard testimony from a recovering alcoholic from Bourkelands who said he had to seek immediate treatment in Brisbane as there was a waiting list in Wagga.
The young man told the court that having a post-detox residential centre in Wagga would have helped his recovery when he was “at my ultimate rock bottom”.
Dr Stubbs said centres catering for “much more disadvantaged groups, such as those coming from homeless or with co-diagnosis of mental illness” had seen “one or two incidents that impacted on amenity”.
“That’s over the course of 30, 40 or 50 years,” she said.
Solicitor Stuart Simington, representing the council, said the only point of contention was the potential for impacts on residents.
“The residents fear the effects on amenity. The evidence shows that those fears are rational,” he said.
Mr To told the court that the proposed centre would screen clients to reduce the risk of anti-social behaviour.
The case was adjourned until Wednesday.
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