Emotions high at council hearing

KAT DUGGAN
Last updated 08:10 05/05/2014
Andy Hall
DEREK FLYNN/FAIRFAX NZ
BUSINESS NEEDS: Boots ‘n All owner Andy Hall made an oral submission on the sale of legal highs in Marlborough at council on Friday.

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A Blenheim mother has pleaded with the Marlborough District Council to remove legal highs from the reach of the public, including her schizophrenic son, who she says is addicted.

Carol Toms was one of 15 people who made oral submissions to the council on Friday on their draft policy to control the sale of legal highs in Marlborough.

Toms' written submission, one of more than 400 made on the topic, was read on her behalf, but her emotion was evident as the story of her struggle with her son's addiction to the synthetic cannabis was told.

"I have a son who should be recovering and I feel that this product is inhibiting his wellness . . . he appears to be addicted to it. He waits for payday each week and then there is a day or two written off."

The council cannot ban the sale of the substances entirely, as that is an issue for the Government.

The issue at hand for the panel of councillors, chaired by community and finance committee chairman John Leggett, was to put restrictions on where the products could be sold in Marlborough.

Under the draft policy, selling legal highs would be allowed only in the Blenheim central business district, with a minimum of 100 metres between stores selling the products.

There would also be a 100m buffer zone between the shops and sensitive sites, such as schools and rehabilitation centres.

Boots ‘n All owner Andy Hall also took the opportunity to be heard on Friday, when he asked the panel to consider his business's growth when making their final decision.

"If this goes through as it is then there's nowhere we could move [to cater for growth]."

His shop had just introduced an R18 "adult toy store", which Hall said was going well, "but our store is quite small", he said.

"In two years when our lease has expired and we have a full licence [to sell synthetics] and the ability to move . . . the lap will mean we can't actually do that," Hall said.

Despite the potentially damaging impact a ban would have on businesses, Toms said she was worried about her son's life, and the lives of other users.

"A business owner said he worried about his livelihood. I worry about my son's life.

"When he is on this stuff he loses touch with the real world. I worry about his physical health as he has no idea of time or space. "I would hate him to get in a car.

"I worry that he will burn something down. It could easily happen . . . I want my son back," she said.

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Multiple submitters suggested excluding the sale of the substances from the central business district completely and instead allowing them to be sold at the Riverlands industrial estate.

Marlborough Drug Arm chairman Roy Ramsey said this would take the products away from the "central carriageway" of town, making them less likely to be brought by curious passersby.

"I'm thinking more Riverlands Estate at a dead-end street so it becomes a destination of ‘I want to go and get this stuff'," he said.

The panel, which also included councillors Jamie Arbuckle, Graeme Barsanti and Cynthia Brooks, would deliberate on both the oral and written submissions. They have been tasked with recommending a course of action which would be put to the community and finance committee, before being signed off by council.

It was not yet known how long that would take.

- Marlborough

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