Bishop praises school over sex-shop

30 Apr 2008

By The Record

By Paul Gray
The bishop of Townsville has praised a Catholic school and its parents for taking a public stand against the opening of a sex shop immediately over the road from the school.
The opening of an “adult” store opposite St Catherine’s primary school in Proserpine, near the Whitsunday Island tourist resorts, sparked outrage around Queensland and attracted national media coverage last week.
The issue was brought to public attention by the actions of parents, the school principal and the parish priest, said Proserpine’s local bishop, Bishop Michael Putney from Townsville.
The attention has provoked a strong political reaction with the State Government of Queensland now promising to review planning regulations which have allowed the problem to emerge.
The St Catherine’s controversy has also had a flow-on effect, with residents on Queensland’s Gold Coast last week raising a new storm of anger through the secular media because of the siting of another sex shop near a youth skating park.
“Right from the first rumour of this shop opening near the school, the parish priest and principal wrote to the council and everyone they could to protest,” Bishop Putney told The Record.
Now, the whole community is very much behind the St Catherine’s community and against the siting of the sex shop near it, the bishop said. “The Mayor supports them, the Council supports them. Everyone’s on their side.”
However Queensland’s planning regulations mean that there is nothing that can legally be done to stop the shop opening opposite the school.
Bishop Putney describes the opening of the shop as “one of those unhappy results that happens because the regulations were too loose.”
Queensland’s Acting Premier Paul Lucas promised last week that the Queensland government would consult with the state’s local government association regarding what it called “potential changes” to regulations on the location of adult stores.
“We want to be sensible about this,” Mr Lucas said. The Acting Premier described sex shops as “legitimate businesses,” but said he understood “some communities” are concerned about them opening too close to schools.
He promised the Government will “look at ways” to regulate the shops’ proximity to schools.
Bishop Putney would not comment on whether the State Government had been tough enough by expressing these intentions, but added: “I suspect the pressure on them is great,” he said.
However, last week it seemed there was little likelihood that the Proserpine adult shop will be obliged to shut down, even if the regulations are amended.
Under Queensland’s existing planning regulations, adult shops cannot be located in industrial areas but are legal in retail precincts.
The Proserpine shop was allowed to open after it leased a retail space near St Catherine’s.
Days after the State government promised a planning review, another controversy broke out on Queensland’s Gold Coast, with another sex shop given permission to open only metres away from a taxpayer-funded youth skate park.
The Gold Coast Bulletin newspaper quoted a local councillor who said: “It’s a highly inappropriate setting.”
Another councilor argued that adult businesses had to be allowed into sex shops because they were denied permission to open in industrial areas.