Drug deals, vomit, crime: Retail strop's sad decline
TRADERS in a once-bustling town south of Brisbane say a drug epidemic is killing their business centre.
They blame a clinic dispensing methadone for attracting drug users into the centre of Beenleigh.
Business owners have complained of street fights outside shops, people high on drugs vomiting on the footpath, cars being hot wired and then stolen, and drug deals in broad daylight.
Nearby sports clubs have been forced to increase security and scour playing fields for discarded syringes after addicts were seen shooting up at a skate park.
But the local MP and council have backed the privately-run clinic which dispenses methadone, saying it provides a much-needed service.
Owner Lachlan Foord said he believed his Pharmaceutical Rehabilitation Services, which opened in Beenleigh in May 2018, was helping reduce the town's crime rate.
"We are a holistic service that provides methadone treatment but also mental health services and overall medical treatment," he said.
"Our clients come here to get off drugs and we are keeping them off the streets which is actually reducing crime here.
"None of our clients live in New South Wales."
Forde MP Bert van Manen gave the privately-owned clinic a $600,000 grant in march last year and said it was a necessity in the area.
"Doctors from the Northern Gold Coast and Logan City often refer clients to PRS because of the scarcity of alcohol and other drugs services in these areas," Mr van Manen said.
"There's a four-week wait time to get an appointment at Logan Alcohol and Other Drug Service (AODS).
"Patients struggling with mental health issues or addiction risk relapsing without immediate care and that alone shows the urgent need for this type of service in our local area.
"The nearest private alcohol and other drugs service clinic is about 25 kilometres away (in Holland Park) and unfortunately distance can be a deterrent for people to seek help."
Logan City Council said its records showed the nearest dedicated methadone clinic was Inala.
But retailers told a different story, saying there were five chemist shops in and around Beenleigh which can dispense methadone.
Beenleigh jeweller Natalia Tormasi, whose shop is less than 50m from the clinic, said she supported the idea of drug rehabilitation but said the clinic had to go from the town centre.
She said she was not the only business which had to tighten security and put grills on windows and operate behind locked doors.
"This is a drug service in the heart of the business district and is one of the main reasons Beenleigh's retail sector is dead," she said.
"None of the neighbouring businesses were consulted or told that a drug clinic would be opening next door.
"I don't like my kids coming to the shop after school anymore because it's too dangerous.
"A neighbouring trader who left his front door open had a guy off his head in his shop and had to call triple-0.
"Trade has dropped dramatically over the past year and a lot of that is because people don't want to come into Beenleigh because they are scared.
"Traders are fighting for their survival and all because drugs are being allowed to take over," Mrs Tormasi said.
Traders have held three meetings since November about the drop in trade and rise in crime.
At one of those meetings, it was revealed theft from a local ALDI store had escalated in the past year with more than $80,000 in goods pilfered over a three-month period, more than double previous quarterly theft results.
Locksmith Darrel Black blamed the crime spike on "undesirable" people moving into the town.
"Heroin addicts have to have daily treatment and so move into this area to be near this facility but the drug problem in Beenleigh is ice not heroin," he said.
"People are using drugs outside these shops in broad daylight and it's intimidating and lowers the whole tone of the place - something has to be done but the police say there's nothing they can do and the local politicians support it.
"My business has been in City Rd for 25 years but I have informed my landlord I will move if the clinic is not relocated.
"The federal government has shown absolute contempt to local traders by giving this business $600,000. We pay rent, taxes and wages and yet we are the ones whose businesses are affected."
A council redesign of the town centre in 2015-16, which rediverted traffic and blocked off roads, along with the two-year closure of the town's once-popular Savages Arcade, have added to traders woes.
The local authority, Logan City Council, said it was not to blame for siting the clinic in the heart of Beenleigh's business district.
The council denied it was a methadone clinic, labelling it a pharmacy which did not need council approval.
"The premises in City Road is a pharmacy and is defined as such under the Logan Planning Scheme.
"It does not require Council approval as the business is operating in an existing building in the Beenleigh Local plan area within the Centre Core Precinct.
"No residents have complained to council about the pharmacy.".
Data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare's National Drug Strategy Household Survey in 2016 found 17 per cent of people aged 14 and over in the Brisbane South Primary Health Network had used illicit drugs.