Squeeze on legal highs outlets

JANINE RANKIN
Last updated 09:00 14/12/2013

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Shops selling legal highs will have almost nowhere to go in Palmerston North if a draft policy restricting its trade to certain streets is adopted.

The holders of all nine interim licences granted in the city would be unable to operate from their current locations under a proposal to be debated by the city council on Monday.

The draft Local Approved Products Policy would confine legal-high shops to within the ring road, so they would be banned in suburban shopping centres.

They would not be allowed on The Square or in George St, Coleman Place, Broadway Ave, Queen St, King St, Princess St from Grey St to Main St, or in Cuba St or Main St.

Further restrictions would apply within 50 metres of "sensitive sites", which include the library, Te Manawa, UCOL, churches and Just Zilch.

And to avoid the clustering of shops in the few remaining gaps, such as Andrew Young St and stretches of Campbell, Lombard and Taonui streets, there would have to be 50 metres of separation between legal-high outlets.

Councillor and Street Van founder Lew Findlay said the council had to try to squeeze out the "legal drug dealers".

Councils do not have the power to make a policy that totally bans the sale of legal highs, but Cr Findlay said the draft policy would make it difficult for traders.

"We have to do something.

"Just this week I have had seven parents get hold of me for help with kids under 18 who are just out of control on these drugs.

"They are getting aggressive, acting out of character, and are just off their faces."

Lotz of Potz operator Shane Simpson said for the council to develop a policy that was so close to an effective ban was backward looking.

"It sounds like they are trying to blacklist it from Palmy.

"Prohibition does not work. If you don't have somewhere legal to buy stuff, people will do it illegally, and you give power back to the gangs."

Mr Simpson said the operators who had interim licences were allowed to sell only from the approved premises they had specified.

They could not simply pick up their licence and move to a location that complied with the areas the city council had left on the map where sales would be allowed.

Lotz of Potz and the two outlets opposite in Fitzherbert Ave would all be caught by the proposed 50-metre restriction around a sensitive site, in this case, free food store Just Zilch.

Its founder, Rebecca Culver, said she was thrilled the council recognised the store as a sensitive site and wanted to act to remove legal highs from the vicinity.

She said while some of the store's customers were users, or were easily tempted by products in the vicinity, there were also more families and parents with small children coming in.

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The volunteers wanted to provide a safe, non-threatening place for them to get help.

The council will recommend any changes to the draft policy before calling for public submissions in January.

Formal consultation will close on February 24, with an opportunity given for people to speak to a hearing.

- Manawatu Standard

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