New rules may see limited legal highs sales

Most of South Auckland could be a no-go area for people wanting to sell legal highs.

Auckland Council wants all areas with a "deprivation level" of 8, 9 or 10 to be free from the substances which councillor Alf Filipaina calls a sensible move.

Last week the council voted on its preferred option for the Local Approved Products Policy, which will dictate the terms of how legal highs can be sold throughout the city.

"I think it will be a big help," Filipaina says.

"I wouldn't be surprised if the people really addicted to it end up either making a big trip outside the area to get some or looking seriously at whether the habit is worth it."

Public input into the policy was "a huge success" and gave the council the direction it needed to put together the new set of rules, he says.

The draft policy will be finalised in October. It will go out for consultation in November and be formally adopted in March 2015.

South Auckland has seven areas which fall outside of the deprivation area ban: Middlemore, Grange, Dingwall, Puhinui North, Manukau Central and Wattle Farm are deprivation level 7 and Hill Park is level 6.

There are further restrictions limiting sales including proximity to schools and other places where psychoactive substances are sold.

Council regionwide social policy team leader Michael Sinclair says it's necessary to find a balance between allowing businesses to sell a legal product and minimising the harm they cause to the public by restricting their sale. Having few retailers in areas where there is demand risks creating an illegal trade in legal highs, he says.

Conversely, if there are more retailers there's a risk of price competition, creating cheap products that lend themselves to being used in large quantities.

Sinclair says there is a lack of research into legal highs so the council has taken its advice from studies into alcohol, tobacco and drug use.

"One effect that stands out from the research is that social areas with high levels of deprivation experience more harm from substance use than those areas with low deprivation," Sinclair says.

"There is a strong case that preventing the sale of psychoactive substances in high deprivation areas will have a greater impact on harm than in lower deprivation areas."

Manukau Courier