These business owners have strongly criticized the city council for supporting a plan proposed by the government of the state of Victoria to open the safe injection room within the vicinity of Flinders Street Railway Station. This station is one of the busiest railway stations in the entire Southern Hemisphere with over 110,000 commuters passing through it each day.
The safe injection room would have also been located close to Degraves Street, a popular outdoor dining street frequented by both locals and tourists alike.
Local business owners warn that if the safe injection room were to open here, hordes of drug addicts would flock to the CBD and destroy all the progress the CBD has made trying to bounce back from the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and lockdowns. (Related: SHOCK: Melbourne to start arresting COVID-19 "conspiracy theorists" and throwing them in concentration camps.)
"It's just catastrophic on all levels," said Mark Laurence, a senior manager for Melbourne-based real estate agency Teska Carson. Teska Carson manages the building right next to the planned safe injection center on Flinders Street.
"There's a lot of pedestrian traffic there, the subway, the businesses in our building and the backpackers hostel. Young people are easily led astray," said Laurence. "You don't want to be rubbing shoulders with junkies. People on drugs are unpredictable."
"People say you don't want it in your backyard. Well, this is our front yard," he added.
The building Laurence manages at Flinders Street hosts tourist hotspots, such as several restaurants and the aforementioned hostel. He is afraid that the safe injection center will drive away foot traffic from his building.
"They are scared," said Laurence of his building's commercial tenants. "We were never consulted. The first we knew about this was when we saw it on television."
"I am concerned the injection room would contribute and increase concern for safety," said a representative of the nearby Doubletree by Hilton Hotel. The spokesperson warned the city council that the already high rates of homelessness and drug use in the city would rise.
The vote to approve the safe injection room in the CBD was passed by the Melbourne City Council on Tuesday night, May 25, after a furious debate between the council's 11 members.
Lord Mayor Sally Capp, the head of the city council, supported the creation of the safe injection room at the CBD.
"I acknowledge that it will be controversial, but the evidence shows that services such as these save lives and they do reduce the number of people who are shooting up in our city streets," said Capp. "Reducing drug use and dependency would benefit our entire society."
Deputy Lord Mayor Nicholas Reece, who also supported a safe injection room in the CBD, revealed during the debate that he had lost a brother to a drug addiction-related incident.
"I know the terrible personal toll that addiction can bring to people's lives and their family and the loved ones around them," he said. He also expressed his support for setting up the safe injection room in the CBD. he argued that, as the CBD recovered from the coronavirus pandemic, it should not leave behind people suffering from addiction.
Councilor Roshena Campbell, a member of the Australian Liberal Party, attempted to defeat the creation of a safe injection room at the CBD. She tried to pass a motion opposing a safe injection room anywhere in the inner city. This motion was defeated.
Campbell argued that a safe injection room would actually harm the CBD's post-coronavirus recovery. She said it would destroy the reputation of Melbourne as a place of safety and amenity.
"It's nothing short of insanity," said Campbell. "It's on the doorstep of our iconic Degraves Street, a postcard location, and we want to attract visitors and tourists back to our city."
Councilor Philip Le Liu, who seconded Campbell's motion, presented a report from the Police Association of Victoria, a police union that represents members of the state police. The report warned that a safe injection room at the CBD would increase crime in the area and divert police resources and officers from other important operations.
The safe injection room at Melbourne's CBD would be the second such location in the city. The first is located in Richmond, an inner-city suburb, and was also met with controversy when it was first proposed.
Campbell's motion pointed out that the Richmond site led directly to a 27 percent increase in the discovery of discarded syringes in the suburb within 10 months of the safe injection room opening.
Only two other councilors supported Campbell and Le Liu, Kevin Louey and Jason Chang. Louey changed his vote to now be against the safe injection room due to the need to support businesses in the aftermath of the coronavirus lockdowns. All seven other councilors voted in favor of the site.
Learn more about how places like Melbourne are handling their addiction epidemics at Addiction.news.