THE Gladiators outlaw motorcycle gang’s base was approved by Gunnedah Council as a rural industry despite widespread fears it was going to be the gang’s local clubhouse.
Hotel publicans and police publicly expressed concerns in 2004 but council still gave it the nod, effectively paving the way for the bikie headquarters to operate until it was dismantled by police last week amid allegations alcohol was supplied over a lengthy period of time.
Mayor Owen Hasler was not on council at the time of the approval but said the development application (DA) ticked all the right boxes.
“Whilst there was some concerns at the time, the legal advice they [council] received from barristers in Sydney indicated what they were applying for was able to be approved,” he said.
“We had no reason not to approve it.” Cr Hasler said the DA was for some form of rural industry, despite a ‘Gladiator Pl’ sign hanging out the front up until last week.
“It has been known as a base for the Gladiators but what was taking place in there was not known by the councillors at all,” he said.
“Anecdotally I’ve heard comments about different things but nothing of any substantial nature and not in the form of complaint.
“I understood they were going to have gatherings every two or three months, that is all.”
In the wake of last week’s dramatic daylight raid, which saw specialist Strike Force Raptor police brought in to bring down the club, Cr Hasler has requested a briefing at next week’s council meeting on the original DA and council’s history of dealings and any complaints.
Cr Hasler said there had not been a single complaint to council on the gang’s headquarters in his 18 months at the helm, but former mayor Adam Marshall said council’s hands were effectively tied in recent years.
“We didn’t have the legal authority to enter and inspect what you suspected was happening inside,” he said yesterday.
“We did as much as we could.
“Council did issue orders on the Gladiators to cease construction on what we believed were illegal structures inside the premises.”
Mr Marshall said council received numerous complaints from neighbours a number of years ago and issued formal notices to those responsible.
“Council can only take action in regards to the planning legislation so council referred the matters to police,” he said.
No charges have yet been laid in response to last week’s raid but Cr Hasler has backed the police response.
“Council is fully supportive of the proactive work of police,” he said.
“Our community welcomes their presence in our community, ensuring the safety of residents.”