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Legal high zone proposed but businesses say no

By Mike Dinsdale

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Dean Abel, a business owner says legal highs need to be banned full stop.
Dean Abel, a business owner says legal highs need to be banned full stop.

The sale of legal highs in Whangarei could be restricted to a three-block zone and opening hours limited as Whangarei District Council looks to control the harm caused by psychoactive substances.

But business owners surveyed in the proposed legal high zone don't want them sold there, or anywhere for that matter.

The council's planning committee will meet tomorrow to consider a draft psychoactive substances policy. If the committee backs the plan it will go to the full council for approval and then out for public consultation. The draft policy, if approved, would restrict the sale of the substances - also known as legal highs - to three blocks off Walton St - Lower Cameron St, Clyde St and Albert St. However, seven businesses in the streets approached by the Northern Advocate yesterday were against the plan, with all saying they would prefer legal highs to be banned totally.

In his report to the meeting, council community services manager Owen Thomas said there were four approved legal high retailers in Whangarei and international research showed there was a greater likelihood of harm through increased availability.

Parliament last year introduced the Psychoactive Substances Act, giving local authorities the right to develop locally approved products policy to determine where such products could be sold. The act was introduced after concerns about legal highs and their affects on the community, and retailers selling the substances have to get an interim licence from the Psychoactive Substances Regulatory Authority to trade.

Grant Whyte, from Fencing Services in Lower Cameron St, said he was against the idea and did not like the harm legal highs caused.

"It's nasty stuff and shouldn't be sold at all. I wouldn't want [a legal high shop] near my business. I'll be making a submission [opposing the zone]," Mr Whyte said.

Sandy and Ian Benjamin, from Rainbows Relics in Clyde St, did not want legal high shops nearby. Mrs Benjamin said she would seriously consider moving - and billing the council for the costs - if the plan was approved.

"We don't want it here and they should be totally banned. I think it will impact on our business if they are sold from here," she said.

Dean Abel, owner of Snow Brothers Auto Electric, on Clyde St, also lives in the street and was opposed to selling legal highs there, or anywhere, but accepted the Government made those decisions, not the council.

"I can relate to what the council is trying to do, but legal highs need to be banned, full stop.

"If the council can ban alcohol in the CBD with a bylaw why can't they ban legal highs in the same way?" Mr Abel said.

Colin Ridings, manager of Carl Johnson Autos on Albert St, said he could not see much chance of a legal high shop opening in the street - there was nowhere free for one to open - but he wanted legal highs banned.

Mr Thomas said the effects of legal highs on individuals included changes in perception, mood consciousness, cognition and behaviour.

"Under the act, there is no enforcement role for council, yet we have significant concern about the risk of harm to the community caused by increasing the number of retailers selling psychoactive products," Mr Thomas said.

"The purpose of the [draft policy] is to provide guidance to the regulatory authority when considering applications from the Whangarei District."

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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