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Have your say on control of legal highs in Whangarei

17 February 2014

Have your say on control of legal highs in Whangarei

Legal highs are something Whangarei needs to talk about and decide how to address, according to Whangarei District Councillors.

They have met to discuss a draft Psychoactive Substances Policy that would say where businesses selling 'legal highs' could be located and what hours they could be open for business.

The draft policy recommends restricting vendors to Albert Street, Clyde Street and part of Lower Cameron Street and allowing them to be sold only between 10am and 2pm, 6pm and 8pm.

Council decided to give the public six weeks to have their say about how legal highs should be managed in the District, through a process that will permit people to make submissions and be heard.

"People have already responded quite passionately, expressing a range of opinions so this is clearly an issue that people care about. That means it is very important that they know how to get those views into the public record to ensure they will be considered in the final policy," said Whangarei Mayor Sheryl Mai.

Many Councillors at the meeting would prefer legal highs to be banned, while others talked about comparisons with alcohol management and the harm people using
legal highs could cause to innocent people.

Mayor Mai said central government had presented Council with limited choices for managing legal highs.

"We can restrict the area where legal highs can be sold or we can do nothing at all about the issue.

"The legislation set by central government prevents us from banning them. We think that's a problem and are giving our support to other mayors who are voicing their concerns to central government on this issue.

"We will also make this point to Local Government New Zealand. In the meantime we have proposed that their sale be restricted to an area that is away from places where young people congregate (residential homes, schools, pubs, play grounds) and during hours when fewer young people are around.

"We also want it to be somewhere visible where we know what is going on. The areas proposed in the draft are out in the open, busy and close to Citysafe assets and the Police station."

Mayor Mai emphasised that the sale and use of legal highs is an issue for the entire community.

"The community needs to tell us what it wants. Police will be responsible for enforcement. The Ministry of Health's Psychoactive Substances Regulatory Authority will be responsible for monitoring adherence by retailers, and we will all be responsible for spotting and reporting problems.

Consultation on the draft policy is likely to begin on 3 March and submissions will close on 11 April 2014.

ENDS

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