Medically Supervised Injecting Room II

Apparently the MSIC is to blame for the vacant shops on Darlinghurst Rd, Kings Cross – how this is so, however, is unclear. The MSIC’s power to drive down business is never explicated except the oft-quoted remark that it is a “honeypot” for users (and therefore dealers too). Quite apart from the local police saying that it isn’t a honeypot, there are some issues with this analysis.

I find it difficult to work out how the MSIC apparently being a honeypot has led to more vacant shops on Darlinghurst Rd, and I don’t think any explanation has ever appeared in the press, other than the unsatisfactory, “it makes the area less attractive”. 

However, I do know of some factors that are possibly more important to commerce in KX. One major change that has happened in the Kings Cross area in recent years is the conversion of many large hotels to residential complexes. Off the top of my head, I can only think of three major non-backpacker hotels still open in the area. (There are a number of small hotels, but they’re comparatively quite small.) There used to be many more, as any resident can attest to. Just up the road, the Sebel was torn down and is now apartments. The Manhattan was pulled down and is now apartments. And so on, and so on. My humble suggestion is that there are fewer tourists in the Kings Cross area now than there were six years ago.

A further piece of the puzzle is the change in the visibility of syringes in streets/gutters and footpaths since the MSIC opened. Before the MSIC opened, you had to watch out for (used) syringes all through Kings Cross. Now, it’s much more unusual to see one. It’s difficult for me to see the massive decrease in syringe visibility as a net negative for people wanting to visit Kings Cross.

A similar argument holds for people shooting up in public. This is now far less visible. A consequence of apparently fewer people shooting up in public is that there are now fewer ambulance sirens, which as any resident would attest, used to be very common.

it is difficult to assert that local amenity has got worse, and in fact, an independent 2005 survey showed that the vast majority (3/4) of local residents supported the MSIC, and about 80% of long-term residents supported it. The local amenity has improved. It’s hard to see how this has been a net negative on local businesses.

Of course, I could be completely wrong about these things. But the analysis provided by the opponents of the MSIC has not appeared plausible, and it appears that possibly more plausible reasons for the numbers of vacant shops include
(i) many fewer hotels in the area, probably leading to many fewer tourists (there appear to be fewer souvenir shops in KX and surrounding areas)
(ii) possibly increasing rents for shops – KX has many hotels and pokie rooms – perhaps landlords feel that the area can bear more licensed premises and charge rents accordingly. At the moment there are plans to increase the number of licensed premises in KX.
(iii) perhaps some shops that closed down didn’t meet the market… I’m thinking in particular of one dingy shop that was quite close to the MSIC that didn’t (to my memory) service current popular technologies in its area – one large company, which produces/processes the kinds of materials that this dingy shop did, has recently closed a factory in Victoria for possibly similar reasons.

We’ll have to see what happens. It would be nice if all the publicity about the MSIC was based on reality rather than (apparent) self-interest, but I feel that unfortunately my hope is fantasy-land. I’m sure that the Daily Telegraph (and possibly The Australian) will run more rubbish (crap is actually too nice a word to use) on the MSIC, and the Liberal opposition will unforunately sprout slogans rather than use reasoned arguments. I’m all in favour of using reasoned argument. I’m completely against garbagey selfish self-interest and slogans.

10 Responses to Medically Supervised Injecting Room II

  1. David says:

    I think your analysis is spot-on Sacha.

  2. The truth is out there says:

    Oh dear, nonsense again about self interest. The Australian Hotel Association begged the local member of parliament to do something about the drugs as their tourist customers refused to stay in the area and deserted the hotels. Nothing was done and the hotel trade dramatically collapsed AFTER the injecting centre opened.

    There was little else to do other than convert the hotels to apartments. There is absolutely no reason to have this facility in the main street. It defies any sense of logic or commonsense as the accumulation of people sitting in the doorways waiting for their next hit is apparent to everyone who walks down the road..

    It is well documented that the head of Uniting Care announced on the news on national television that the injecting centre is “our new business and we are going to join the chamber of commerce” That my friend says it all . He has subsequently apologised for this stupidity.

    So ten years into a Labour Government, tiny little Darlinghurst Rd all 320 meters of it still accounts for huge drug dealing. Remember the former police commander Dave Darcy said the street was out of control( 13 December 2003 )with 800 drug deals being carried out each day. Just imagine if the $60 000 a week spent on injecting facility
    was given to staff the local police . How many drug dealers would be arrested and how much crime would be reduced and how many overdoses prevented . Don’t forget that the crime has moved beyond the immediate area to nearby Darlinghurst were dozens of signs have been put in shops saying little cash was kept on the premises.

    But the nonsense that retail collapse was as a result of the hotels closing can only be laughed at when you find that many of the businesses moved around the corner.

    Crazy Prices a Woolworths shop closed in Darlinghurst Rd and Woolwoorths opened in MacLeay St.

    Commonwealth Bank moved to MacLeay St
    Westpac moved to Macleay St
    St George closed down
    National Australia Bank moved to Macleay St
    Lydia florist closed down after 80 years
    2 New florists opened in Macleay St

    Fruit and vegetable shop closed down in Darlinghurst Rd and moved to Macleay St

    2 new pawnbrokers opened virtually next to the injecting centre.
    Ticketek in next to the injecting centre closed down after 13 years as no one wished to queue outside.

    Blinkys photos survived 26 years before closing down. Sure technology had a small effect. But it had the most advanced photo processing of any lab in Sydney. Two small labs with obsolete equipment nearby continue to operate.
    A Cd shop two doors away from the injecting centre will close down this month after only 18 months. Its been robbed nearly every day.

    Of course the drivel that the police support the facility has been brought up many times. They have to support government policy. But do yourself a favour and ask the beat cops what they really think. You would be astonished at their response.

    Windows in nearly every shop in Bayswater Rd have been smashed in by junkies exiting the centre. Even the centre itself has faced enormous problems with staffing.

    Think about it if it was such a good idea why did the medical director say that it was the worst possible location- NSW supreme court Kings Cross Chamber of Commerce v Uniting Care and the NSW Government.

    But don’t just believe this missive. Have a coffee at the café corner of Bayswater Rd and Darlinghurst Rd any day – watch and listen for yourself. Maybe then you will discover that the truth is out there.

  3. Sacha says:

    Which windows in Bayswater Rd have been smashed? I walk along Bayswater Rd practically every day and I have seen 1-2 windows on vacant shops with fracture stress lines, presumably because someone tried to break them or applied pressure to them.

    More importantly, Kings Cross has been a centre for drugs for decades. The local state MP could do little to change this. Given this, the key question is, which I notice you fail to address, is whether things are better (in some overall sense) with the MSIC open than without it? You assert that things are bad. How would they get better is the MSIC is closed? How would having lots of people overdosing in the streets, both for themselves and for business, be better?

    Your implied argument is that the MSIC is bad for business. Sorry – but you need more than anecdote to make this argument. Interestingly, I notice that Roslyn St is now flourishing with small businesses, which occupy once vacant shops.

    Also interestingly, about 60 percent of independently surveyed business operators in the area support the MSIC.

    Your arguments are unconvincing.

  4. The truth is out there says:

    Sorry but they are not stress fractures. Don’t surmise and do yourself a favour and ask the businesses how they were broken. I did. It’s a real tragedy for these small businesses trying to make a living. Glass is broken so frequently that they have given up.

    A sad example was the European café which closed down after 6 months rent free as they were constantly robbed- including the tips in the tipping jar. It was next to the bakery. And before the lovely Greek restaurant went bust. Also the real estate agent closed down and moved away this week as he could no longer stand all the drug dealing outside his shop.

    The quality of an area is determined in large part by the people who are on the streets. This morning- Sunday- there were people shooting up outside 3 Kellett St.This is adjacent to the injecting centre. No wonder this lovely café closed down. And take a look in their courtyard -it will be cleaned tomorrow.

    Never any sympathy for decent hard working people.It would be a really simple task to get rid of the drug dealers once and for all.

    Its all about policing.Reba Maher the labour member for Cabramatta had the methadone clinic closed down as it became a honey pot for drug dealers. And it worked. The drug overdoses dropped dramatically in Cabramatta as it was about the same as the Cross. And no injecting centre.

    My facts are not anectdotel- I work in the Cross.

    The survey was not just of local businesses- it went as far as East Sydney and Darlinghurst and Rushcutters Bay local in the sense that it was based on the 2011 postcode.. An appropriate survey would be of Kings Cross and in particular Darlinghurst Rd and the immediate surrounding areas. And as I was surveyed the questions were more about HIV and really had little to do with the MSIC. I do know of two local businesses who accused the survey done last November as loaded. There will be surprises in respect of this – take my word and you will see.

    The questions were unfairly slanted. Do yourself a favour and ask the University Of NSW for a copy of the questions.

    Roslyn St has improved- but do yourself a favour and ask the shop owners about the drug trade around them. Its quite sad that most of them barely make a living.

  5. Sacha says:

    How arrogant your posts are. “Never any sympathy for decent hard working people.” Huh? I’m a “decent hard working person” and I am very sympathetic to problems people have, whether they’re business people or drug addicts.

    I recently became aware of something about the situation in Cabratmatta, another piece of information – this was that the dealing had become more spread out – I don’t remember the details but those are my impressions.

    All decisions about these things should be evidence-based.

  6. graemebird says:

    The businessmen in the area are going to know whether its hurting their business or not.

    It would be a good idea but its actually encouraging lawlessness. Since the drugs aren’t being supplied in-house. So the junkies are buying it off dealers who the cops don’t try and bust. This is a ridiculous setup.

    They have to do it right or stop it. The government has to either become the dealer and undercut the current dealers or they should close this thing down. Its a slap in the face for the rule of law. Legalise it. License some supply or stop it altogether. They have somehow managed to create the worst of all policy mixes.

  7. graemebird says:

    “All decisions about these things should be evidence-based.”

    The testimony of the locals IS evidence.

  8. Sacha says:

    The testimony of locals is data that should be fed into the process for looking at whether it’s a positive thing or not.

    I also don’t think that the policy mix is optimum, but I think that it’s better than what was there previously. BTW the policy don’t have a no arrest policy for dealers in Kings Cross.

    It is of course possible that the existence of the MSIC has affected businesses – I’m open to that idea. To show that it has, though, you need more than what’s been offered as analysis. You need to try and draw out the effects of the existence of the MSIC from other influences, and then what the effect of moving it/closing it down would be.

    But it’s effect (if any) on businesses is only part of what you need to look at – you need to look at the implications for the health and wellbeing of people, and for policing. It’s not necessarily a cut and dried thang.

    As it is, from everything I’ve seen I’m in favour of it staying open.

  9. Jenny Thompson says:

    As a local resident I very much support the MSIC. Before it was opened I was constantly exposed to people injecting in the streets and it was normal to see syringes lying about, with the opening of the MSIC this all changed and I can walk about without being confronted with these things.

    Drugs have been in Kings Cross for many years, when cocaine was first prohibited in the 1920’s I believe Tilly Devine was one of the first to cash in and made a lot of money selling it. History tells us that many of the girls working for her did so because they were addicted to cocaine. Lets not forget the Veitman War when out American allies first introduced herion, well before the MISC I believe.

    As for the businesses in the area, there is a processes of gentrification going on and sadly many business have suffered. The Woolworths in Potts point is a much need grocery store while the Woolworth in Darlinghurst Road was little more that a $2 shop at the time it closed. Around 2000 the butcher in Maclay Street closed down, however, recently another opened up across the road and is doing very well selling meat at extraordinary prices. I am led to believe the bottom is also falling out of the ‘sex industry’, the girls on the street are having a lot more trouble making money than they used to, is this also the fault of the injecting room?

    As for shop lifting, bag snatches, drug selling, prostution etc this has been going on for many many years.

  10. Sacha says:

    Hi Jenny, nice to hear the thoughts of a local resident.

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