Council gets tough over legal highs


Marlborough people will be asked for their views on a tougher-than-expected council policy on the sale on legal highs.

The Marlborough District Council's community and finance committee increased the buffer zone between legal high sellers and sensitive sites such as schools to 100 metres, and has also proposed that retailers be limited to a small central business district zone, with 100 metres between synthetic cannabis stores.

The draft policy has to be approved by the full council on February 27 and will go out for public consultation the next day for a month.

The proposal stirred debate among councillors at yesterday's meeting, with several wanting to ban the products completely.

Blenheim ward councillors committed during last year's election campaign to ban the drugs from Marlborough.

However, committee chairman John Leggett, who was away at a family event and missed the meeting where other candidates committed to banning the drugs, reminded his colleagues that the Government had made the drugs legal, so the council could not ban them. It could only limit where they were sold, but not their hours of sale.

The law was badly written, Mr Leggett said, and did not give councils the powers to control legal highs in the same way as controls on the sale of alcohol.

He encouraged councillors to lobby the Government and to speak to their MP.

Councillor Laressa Shenfield - daughter of Kaikoura MP Colin King - said Mr King "had certainly heard" her views.

The council had a clear message from the community what it wanted to see in place. "I don't want the community to think we are giving lip service to this debate going on."

She proposed a 200m buffer zone between retailers, but council solicitor Kaye McIlveney said the two legal high retailers in Blenheim were only 191.05m apart.

Councillor Jessica Bagge said Marlborough had a bad record with child abuse complaints, women's refuge uptake, and rising elder abuse, all of which had alcohol, legal drugs, and illegal drugs as big factors. "We have an opportunity here to say how we want our community to look."

She said Marlborough should be joining other councils to lobby the Government to ban the legal highs and it should take a tougher stance to restrict their sale.

Councillor Peter Jerram said the council should be taking a leading role, not a conservative one. "This is a shocking piece of legislation, he said.

"We need to show the people that sell these things that they are pariahs in our community. We don't like them."

Councillor Jamie Arbuckle said he had campaigned on banning legal highs, but the rules were that councillors couldn't do that.

He supported reducing the area of the central business zone where the legal highs could be sold, excluding the area north of Alfred St and south of Maxwell Rd and Main St.

Councillor Geoff Evans said the legal highs were a "blight on the community", and they needed to be regulated.

"I suggest the police station as an ideal location for their sale, but I'm sure that won't be taken up."

Councillor Terry Sloan agreed the sale of the drugs needed to be monitored, and the central business district zone would be a good one as it had security cameras.

Councillor Cynthia Brooks said it was "repugnant" that the council was forced to make decisions that central government refused to address.

The Marlborough Express