By David Schout
A make-or-break report that will determine the suitability of a proposed safe injecting facility near Queen Victoria Market will be tabled “soon” according to the state government.
After almost nine months of consultation with key stakeholders regarding the contentious Victoria St site, former Victoria Police commissioner Ken Lay was still yet to report back whether, on balance, it was appropriate.
A state government spokesperson confirmed with CBD News the report was imminent, but could not confirm a specific date by the time of publishing the April edition.
The report’s findings could play a significant role in whether the Andrews government proceeds with its preferred location of Cohealth on Victoria St.
The site is currently opposed by the City of Melbourne, many local residents and market traders.
The council’s concerns relate primarily to the impact on Drill Hall affordable housing residents next door, and on the market which it has said is the city’s “most significant tourist attraction”.
The council has said it “accepts the evidence that medically supervised injecting rooms save lives”, but “does not believe that the cohealth site opposite the Queen Vic Market is the appropriate location”.
The report had been due for submission at the end of 2020, but the deadline was extended into the New Year when, according to Health Minister Martin Foley, “face-to-face engagement is less restricted and key voices are more able to have their say”.
In June last year, the findings of an independent report found Victoria’s one and only safe injecting facility in North Richmond had saved at least 21 lives in 18 months, and required help dealing with demand.
The City of Melbourne, which recorded 51 overdose deaths between 2015 and 2019 — second in the state only to the City of Yarra — was nominated in the report as the preferred municipality to house Victoria’s second medically-supervised injecting room.
But the government went a step further and nominated cohealth at 53 Victoria St in a move that incensed the council which had not been briefed.
While the government has maintained for some time that it remained open to “suitable” alternative sites, in December CBD News reported that no other site had been considered and that the Victoria St site remained the government’s preferred (and only) current option.
It is not known if the government has since found alternatives sites should the Mr Lay-led review find 53 Victoria St was not an appropriate location •