Join hands to fight addiction

May 18, 2018

A renovated building at The Cottage on St Andrew's Rd, Shepparton.

To combat the scourge of drug and alcohol addiction in our community, whether they are labelled rehabilitation centres or crisis accommodation facilities, we need places for addicts to recover safely and securely.

A legal battle between Greater Shepparton City Council, residents and providers can only prolong the suffering of addicts, their families and the local community.

Perhaps the people responsible for setting up The Cottage on St Andrews Rd did the wrong thing for the right reasons.

Failing to secure planning permission from the council was, as they themselves have admitted, an error.

The facility was not exempt from planning laws as The Cottage management has now confirmed, and yet operated for 11 months, reportedly providing a badly needed respite for 65 recovering addicts.

But residents of the nearby area were never consulted and never given the opportunity to support or object to the establishment of a 23-bed facility in their neighbourhood.

Establishing such a facility was always going to prove problematic, however badly it was needed.

The council has now been forced to go to VCAT and seek suspension of The Cottage’s activities. Legally, there is nothing else it can do. Its job is to oversee such projects.

Simultaneously, the council will now consult the community as to whether The Cottage should remain in operation or permanently shut down.

No doubt residents of the area who object to living near The Cottage are upset it took the council seven months to begin enforcing the rules.

The Cottage and its operations were not a secret. News coverage ran as early as August last year and yet the council did not act until February.

It is a difficult situation for all sides, with no clear winners and losers.

And yet should The Cottage close, we will all as a community lose as those seeking to heal and recover lose an option to do so.

The community, council and providers need to come together, not battle each other, for the critical and pressing issue of drug and alcohol addiction to be addressed.

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