A PROPOSAL for a tattoo studio in Kiama has been approved, despite fears it will attract a criminal threat to the town.
Councillor Dennis Seage went so far as to say it could eventually pave the way for brothels and a heroin injection room.
The studio will be located at 33 Bong Bong Street, behind the Grand Hotel.
It will operate from 10am-5pm Monday to Friday, as well as 10am-4pm on Saturdays.
The building is owned and occupied by the Illawarra Cattle Society of Australia, which has given its consent for the development.
A report on the proposal was tabled at last Tuesday night’s council meeting.
Cr Dennis Seage, a former police detective was vocally opposed to the proposal.
Councillors voted 5-4 against Cr Seage’s motion not to allow the studio to be approved.
‘‘Not all people with tattoos are undesirables,’’ he said.
‘‘But in my lengthy criminal-related experience, I absolutely assure you that the vast majority of undesirable people do have tattoos.
‘‘What next - a brothel? Needle exchange facility? How about a heroin injection room?
‘‘Nothing good will come of this studio.
‘‘He will be harassed by bikie gangs and money will be extorted from him.
‘‘If he resists, he will regret the ramifications that will follow... Tattoo artists are easy targets.’’
Cr Warren Steel believed ‘‘the people we represent in the municipality would be against it’’.
Cr Andrew Sloan shared some of Cr Seage’s concerns. However, he said other councils had recently unsuccessfully challenged similar developments in the Land and Environment Court, and was not willing to risk ratepayers’ money in a challenge.
Deputy Mayor Neil Reilly said tattoos were becoming increasingly popular.
‘‘Research has told us 25 per cent of youth under 30 have tattoos.
‘‘I understand our moral indignation, but our moral indignation can’t deny someone who legally seeks to have a tattoo or someone who legally seeks to provide a tattoo.
‘‘That’s the law in this country.’’
Mayor Brian Petschler mentioned Kiama previously having a tattoo parlour in Terralong Street.
However, Cr Seage said the reason that operator shut down was because he was forced to by the Rebels bikie gang.
‘‘He was harassed and harangued and extorted to such a degree he couldn’t stay in this town one more minute,’’ he said.
Post-meeting, Cr Seage said this wasn’t about taking the high moral ground.
‘‘I have one myself; on my left arm with my grandchildren’s names on it,’’ he said.
‘‘Nothing against the proprietor; it wasn’t about tattoos, it’s about an undesirable criminal element that tattoo shops attract.’’
Councillor Mark Way, who has a half-a-dozen tattoos himself, said ‘‘you have to be innocent until proven guilty’’.
‘‘Other issues (experienced) in Sydney can’t be used as a planning reason to knock back a business,’’ he said.
Cr Way believed Cr Seage’s experiences in the police force had understandably made him wary of such situations.
‘‘I do sympathise with what he was trying to say... But here, you have to look at the planning principles.
‘‘If something does eventuate, this is a small community and it wouldn’t take long for the community to realise, and police to take action.’’
According to council’s report, the Lake Illawarra Local Area Command did not object to the development on the basis that a handful of matters were conditioned in the development consent, such as Closed Circuit Television being installed inside the business.
One of the partners in the business, ‘‘Tad’’, said Matt Hall, the studio’s artist, was born and bred in Kiama.
‘‘Matt’s a real family man; we’ve got nothing to do with crime or bikies... I think he (Cr Seage) went a bit overboard.
‘‘I can’t see it (bikies) happening... It’s too hard for them these days.
‘‘Look what’s happened in Queensland - (why) risk something like that for a little tattoo shop?
‘‘We’re not bad people; we’re good people.’’