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Board supports legal high ban but divided on tack

RIA ELKINGTON
Last updated 05:00 19/08/2014

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Legal highs will be making a comeback and the Upper Harbour Local Board members are appalled.

The psychoactive substances law introduced this year does not prevent sale of legal highs but instead allows councils to develop local approved product policies to restrict where they can be sold.

This includes how far outlets should be from places like schools, churches and public buildings.

Auckland Council's policy analyst Callum Thorpe attended the local board meeting on August 12 to ask for feedback on the proposed draft legal high policy.

Board members would prefer to see legal highs banned completely and are split on how to react.

Some think they should not react in protest but others want to give feedback and not lose their say.

Board members Callum Blair and John McLean said the board should take a stand.

Blair is concerned that giving feedback endorses a policy that the board clearly disagrees with.

McLean says he'd rather the board fought the law.

But member Margaret Miles said it could take years to lobby for a law change.

She thinks it is better to have a say on what will happen in the community.

"If we don't say something now then we have no say in where these shops will pop up," she says.

The draft proposes no-sale zones that are 300 metres from high schools, 100m from primary schools, 300m from a mental health or addiction treatment centre, and 500m from an existing legal highs retailer.

One suggestion discussed in the meeting was to increase the 300m zones to 600m, and the 100m zones to 300m. Another option the board discussed was to give feedback while lobbying against the law.

Chairman Brian Neeson says central government has put them in a no-win situation.

We don't have the ability to prevent the sales of these substances anymore, all we can do is manage them, he says.

"It's a poisoned chalice, so we're damned if we do and damned if we don't."

Neeson deferred the item until the board's next meeting to give board members time to think and seek public views.

"It's our responsibility to make a decision so we need to make sure that we make the best decision for our community."

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- North Shore Times

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