Police appear to have turned a blind eye to a group of 25 who gathered by a Whangarei public playground to smoke cannabis, in protest at the drug's illegal status.
New Zealand Police Conduct Association president Shannon Parker was at Mair Park on Friday and watched aghast as the group smoked marijuana near children, while police failed to show up at the protest, which was advertised in advance.
Ms Parker said she found it "phenomenal" police had ignored such flagrant law-breaking.
"I don't care about cannabis use, but I do care what they're doing in a playground and I care that the police aren't acting on something so obvious," she said.
Ms Parker said police had received at least one email about the event and a tip-off during the hour the group were in the park.
There was also a public event invitation on Facebook and an article in the Northern Advocate stating the group planned to meet weekly following their first protest at Whangarei District Court on February 12.
She said she had filed a formal complaint with police over the inaction.
"They were metres away from a children's playground at 4pm on a school day. Families had to get their children and leave," Ms Parker said.
Police were unable to comment directly yesterday on why they did not attend the protest citing time pressure before publication deadline. They did issue a statement from acting area commander Riki Whiu which said police would "continue to prioritise resources according to demand and against the wider needs of the community, with a particular focus on preventing victimisation and offending from serious crime and crashes". The statement also said police were aware of the group and would make further inquiries.
Whangarei mayor Sheryl Mai said it was a shame the group had used an area near a playground to "promote smoking of any sort". All of WDC's parks and playgrounds were smoke-free.
"The debate this group is inviting is one for adults, not children, and I hope that they will reconsider the locations they are choosing to make their point in light of this comment," Ms Mai said.
The group of campaigners told the Advocate at their first gathering that they plan to meet and smoke marijuana every Friday at 4.20pm at various locations in Whangarei.
Protest organiser Melissa Brown said she was not worried about police turning up.
Several states in the United States have decriminalised or legalised marijuana for medicinal use in recent years.