Legal high protesters are calling for Tauranga City Council to use Hamilton as an example as work starts on a policy restricting the sale of synthetic cannabis.

Last month Hamilton became the first city in New Zealand to push legal high retailers out of town temporarily, thanks to its council's tough new Psychoactive Substances Policy.

The policy put buffer zones of 100m around sensitive sites such as places of worship and schools and imposed a 500m boundary between retailers, effectively pushing them out of town.

The policy was upheld by the Ministry of Health, which suspended six retailers' licences until after the resolution of the appeal before the Psychoactive Substances Appeals Committee and judicial review proceedings in the High Court.


A legal high advocacy group, The Star Trust, is taking Hamilton City Council to court over its policy but councillor Angela O'Leary, who has led the council's working group to shut the stores, said Hamilton would "stand its ground".

"Any challenge would be only a review of the council's process."

Tauranga City Council recently made a submission to the Psychoactive Substances Regulations and staff were working on a draft Psychoactive Substances policy, with a final document due in May.

Tauranga woman Renee Raynes, who organised a 150-strong protest against synthetic cannabis in Cameron St last Saturday, hoped Tauranga City Council used Hamilton as an example.

"Even better, go above and beyond what Hamilton are doing," she said.

"This is council's chance to make it impossible for these people to sell their poison. This stuff is screwing over families in our community and it has to go. Full stop. There are hundreds of people in our town who want council to do everything they can to get them out of here."

Papamoa man Bill, who did not want his last name printed, said his 21-year-old son had been in and out of mental health care since he started smoking synthetic cannabis two years ago.

"It has almost killed our family.

"I will not stop until this stuff is banned. I will protest every weekend outside John Key's house until he gets the message - get rid of this rubbish, don't legislate it so it seems okay."

Tauranga mayor Stuart Crosby said Tauranga City Council would look at what other councils had implemented.

Deputy mayor Kelvin Clout said the council was united on its stance against legal highs but it did not have the power to ban retailers.

That was up to the Government, he added.

"There is a massive public tide against this stuff," he said.

"For now we can't ban it outright, we can only control it, unfortunately. And we are planning to put on tight restrictions, once we get the chance."