Drug issues growing in CBD

By Ruth Keber

A young male is seen smoking a substance from a can at the bus stop on Willow St. Photo/Richard Moore
A young male is seen smoking a substance from a can at the bus stop on Willow St. Photo/Richard Moore

Youths smoking legal highs are still causing concern at an inner city park despite the Tauranga District Council authorising a crackdown in the area, business owners say.

The news comes after the Bay of Plenty Times yesterday reported counsellors were encouraging some synthetic cannabis addicts to smoke the real thing after seeing teens becoming a "total mess".

Business owners near Masonic Park have joined Tauranga Art Gallery director Penelope Jackson in raising concerns about anti-social substance abuse in the park.

Ms Jackson has previously voiced her suspicions about drug dealing in the park that sits next to the gallery in Willow St. It was part of a bigger picture of continuing concerns by the gallery, including staff being stalked when they left work and disorderly behaviour in the carpark and bus stops. In October 2012, the council gave staff the go-ahead to trial some "interventions" to control the behaviour of young people who frightened visitors. Police also opened the information centre beside the Willow St bus stops and wardens and police volunteers patrolled the area.

Last week Bay of Plenty Times columnist Richard Moore took a photo of a young man who appeared to be smoking a substance through a beer can at the Willow St bus stop.

Ms Jackson said such sights were still common.

"It's not nice to witness drug taking and some of the related anti-social behaviour in broad daylight, in an area that should not make people feel unsafe."

Luigi Barattieri, who owns the nearby Comida restaurant, said the number of youths gathering at the park was "ten times worse" than it had been in the past.

"The problem started when the bus stop moved here, it never happened before that."

"I see all the mess (broken bottles) in the morning.

"But I can't criticise them, they have nothing better to do so they come into town, they are just lost kids. The question is: where are their parents?"

Another shop owner said there were frequent problems in the area. "The Maori wardens are doing a good job. They normally come past about 3pm everyday but we still see fights and everything," he said.

Kings Diary owner Davinder Singh said they often had problems with teenagers coming into his diary and stealing items from the shelves.

A group of 18-year-olds at the Willow St bus stop told the Bay of Plenty Times they came to Masonic Park because they could buy synthetic cannabis from a store, Curiosity, nearby.

It was a "cruisey place to smoke", they said.

"We are like the kings sitting down here at this bus stop smoking legals," one of them said.

"It's a wonderful feeling to have a little cone after work and head home."

Legals (synthetic cannabis) were also better than ever, he said.

"You get way higher if you smoke a whole bag and it's cheaper."

Tauranga Mayor Stuart Crosby said the sale of synthetic cannabis caused problems in every city.

"Where these outlets are, there are problems that follow," he said.

However, he said there had been a vast improvement in the area since the Maori and community wardens had been been patrolling.

The owners of Curiosity on Wharf St declined to comment.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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