New bid to ban legal highs

Local board aims to clean up town centre

ANNA LOREN
Last updated 05:00 07/02/2014
legal highs
UNWELCOME: The Manurewa Local Board’s position paper aims to restrict the sale of synthetic cannabis to stores in the Southmall Shopping Centre.

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Synthetic cannabis shops could be shut out of communities completely if the Manurewa Local Board gets its way.

The board has released a position paper outlining the areas where it believes legal highs should be banned from sale.

The paper, approved at the board's last business meeting, is intended to give the Health Ministry of Health a local perspective on the controversial substances.

It also means Manurewa residents will have a voice in the debate while they wait for Auckland Council to develop its own policy, board chairwoman Angela Dalton says.

The paper restricts the sale of legal highs within the board's area to the Manurewa Town Centre.

Public safety is better in those areas because more people are present and there is greater visibility, good lighting and CCTV camera coverage, it says.

It also forbids the sale of legal highs within 100 metres of "sensitive sites" such as schools, kindergartens, churches and other community facilities.

Ms Dalton says that means the only place the substances could be sold in Manurewa is the Southmall Shopping Centre.

And the local board will "continue to dialogue" with the managers of Southmall to let them know the stores aren't wanted there.

Chai Chuah, the ministry's acting director-general of health and chief executive, congratulates the board on its initiative.

The position paper "gives communities a real say in managing the location of retail premises", he says.

The Psychoactive Substances Regulatory Authority will recommend that the position paper is taken into account when it is making decisions about the stores, he says.

Local board deputy chairman Simeon Brown says the paper is "very promising".

"It's been a big piece of work and it's great to see it coming into effect."

He's pleased other local boards across Auckland are also writing position papers for their own areas.

"That will mean once temporary licences under the Psychoactive Substances Act run out, communities across South Auckland will have already articulated to the Ministry of Health where it doesn't want to see these stores popping back up."

Now he's calling on the council to step up to the plate and release its own policy. "The act has given special powers to local councils to restrict the sale of legal highs.

"The burden rests on councils to use these powers if they are serious about protecting the community and young people from the propagation of these substances throughout our suburbs and communities," he says.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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