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Sneaky casino decision before Parliamentary vote

"Sneaky and cynical."

That's how Alliance MP Phillida Bunkle is describing a Casino Control Authority decision to grant two casino licences in Queenstown on the day that parliament votes on her casino Bill.

She's vowing that a new Government will remove the existing Casino Control Authority for its decisions.

Phillida Bunkle's Bill allows local communities to vote on whether a casino will be allowed in their community. The Bill will be voted in parliament tonight.

In April the Casino Control Authority granted 'interim licences' to the two Queenstown casinos and construction work on them began. Interim licences have no existence in law and cannot be challenged in court the way a final licence can. Today the Casino Control Authority issued final licences, dodging both the parliamentary vote and the possibility of legal challenge to the licences in advance of the vote.

"If my Bill had been voted on before the licences had been issued then the people of Queenstown would at last have had a chance to vote on the casinos and have their voice heard," Phillida Bunkle said.

"The CCA's action has ensured that whatever the will of parliament, the people of Queenstown will not have a say.

"The CCA knows that the Queenstown community is deeply opposed to the casinos and that if they get the chance to vote on the subject the casinos will be stopped. What are the odds that the CCA would just coincidentally issue the final licences hours before parliament votes?

"In my view the behaviour of the Casino Control Authority makes its membership totally unsuitable for the role they have and it should be a top priority of a new government to send them packing," Phillida Bunkle said.

"A huge majority of parliament voted to send my Bill to Select Committee in June 1997. It has been delayed by the National Party and the Rev Ann Batten for two years so that the licences can go ahead and the will of parliament could be frustrated."

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