Rosemary McLeod: Extraordinary moments of action

By Rosemary McLeod

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Peter Dunne is in charge of the battle against legal highs.Photo/File
Peter Dunne is in charge of the battle against legal highs.Photo/File

How fearless we are. We live on the sharp rim of doom and just whistle at it.

Think of our volcanoes, 53 in Auckland alone.

They're not extinct, just waiting.

Think of Lake Taupo, site of the world's most violent volcanic eruption in the past 5000 years.

Its last big burst was a mere 1800 years ago; we still pick up pumice from that on our beaches, and it's not dead either.

Then there's Wellington's 8.2-level earthquake in 1855, the one that flung the Hutt Motorway land into the air, and caused a tsunami.

Let's add the big Napier quake of 1931 that flattened the town - and I could go on, but we carry on living, and on the fault lines, too.

Another word for it is crazy.

You'd have to be a bit crazy not to wake in the night with the odd anxiety attack about when the Big One will strike, but we don't, and that's why I'm bemused by a report to the British Government that says its greatest future threat is a super-volcano erupting in Iceland.

Lake Taupo is a super-volcano, but do we care? People water ski there, they catch trout, they build houses.

Fear of the mean Eyjafjallajokull volcano and its like means the British will now rank the threat of a super-volcanic eruption in Iceland up with an outbreak of pandemic influenza, like the one that killed 100 million people worldwide in 1818-20, and on a par with a terrorist attack involving a nuclear device.

And they will be trembling, because they have imagination. We don't, really.

We cross our fingers, blunder on and hope.

Yet sometimes we get it right.

This week we have the extraordinary situation of the Government doing, or considering, two things that make absolute sense, and both at once.

Recently, I wrote in support of Jill Greathead, a Carterton District councillor and chairwoman of the Wairarapa Psychoactive Substances Working Party.

She was in despair over the Government's decision to legalise synthetic cannabis; a substance that had already caused much misery in her area, as it has reportedly done in others.

Local government was obliged, because of the law change, to designate places where a limited number of sellers would be able to ply their trade with impunity, a virtual licence to print money despite community opposition.

Sellers would make fortunes without a care in the world because their grim trade was legal and there's never a shortage of people who like nothing better than the chance to risk drug-induced psychosis.

"The Government's telling me this is okay?" Ms Greathead marvelled.

And so did I.

Since then other communities have protested at the madness of the law change, and now the Government has revoked that interesting experiment in licensed social havoc.

The drugs will be illegal again. And that's a good thing, surely.

But wait.

At once, the New Zealand Drug Foundation protested that there'd be panic buying of the stuff among users, building up hoards before the new law took effect.

Others pleaded that addicted users would possibly suffer withdrawal, which would be an unpleasant experience and therefore jolly unfair.

What was Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne to do? Why, blame the Labour Party.

He admits he brought forward a planned repeal, which would have meant a slower shutting-down process, because he learned Labour was about to pre-empt him. So in the end both parties are the bad guys here, but also the good guys, or perhaps both bad and both good. One never quite knows.

A looming election sharpens the most reluctant minds, so another policy that makes sense is being seriously discussed. A sex offender's register might be tough on offenders, but the current situation, which confers anonymity, is a darn sight tougher on those who marry them, or hire them to look after small children. As with synthetic cannabis users, surely suffering sex offenders bring the consequences on themselves. I won't be shedding shed tears for either of them.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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