Objections to 'high' outlet in Stoke mall
JAMES GREENLAND AND SALLY KIDSON
Mounting opposition from retailers and school staff could prevent the establishment of a proposed new "legal high" outlet in Stoke.
Property manager Martin Sutton, of Nelson Management Services, has confirmed that a retailer is hoping to set up a new "R18 store" in the Stoke Central Mall, causing concern among other retailers and staff at nearby Nayland College who say they do not want the scourge of legal highs in their community.
Mr Sutton said Nelson man Dharmendra Patel, who also owns the Haven Rd dairy that was stripped of its Lotto license for continuing to sell legal highs after it was asked not to, had applied for a lease, but that remained subject to approval by the Central Mall's body corporate.
Niksha Holdings, a company registered to Mr Patel, was last month issued with a licence to sell legal highs out of a street front shop at the Stoke Central Mall.
Mr Sutton questioned how Mr Patel could have been issued with that licence because he does not have a lease for the premise.
He said it was unlikely Mr Patel would be awarded a lease, now that it was clear what type of products he wished to sell.
"We don't want anything that will jeopardise the operation of the mall," Mr Sutton said.
He said there was a formal process to follow before the lease would be granted or denied, which involved consulting with all property owners and retailers who have an interest in the mall.
"The majority so far have been opposed," Mr Sutton said.
"He is legally entitled to look at getting a lease . . . I can't see it eventuating," he said.
A decision would be reached within the next two weeks.
Tattooist Aaryn Garing said he would consider moving his parlour from the mall if the R18 shop went ahead.
Mr Garing was worried that a legal high shop could attract "larrikins" to hang about the mall.
Any licensed legal high outlet must restrict sales to people older than 18, though Mr Garing doubted that would prevent younger children getting their hands on the drugs, through friends.
"It's just going to bring trouble. We just think that it is bad for the whole mall."
Mr Garing said dairies in the area had made a decision not to sell legal highs because of their affect on the community, and a new outlet would undo all their efforts to help the area.
Lawyer Kelly Hennessy said none of the mall tenants he had spoken to wanted a legal high store next door.
"I myself think it is going to be injurious to the reputation of the mall."
He said the highs might be legal, but that did not mean they were safe, and he was worried about the young people in Stoke having easier access to the drugs.
"I don't want to see a whole lot of young people lining up outside my window picking up their legal highs and hanging out in the mall."
He was worried about associated crime, including robberies, that came with an addictive substance.
"People rob places for cigarettes now because they are so expensive."
Jayne Lomas of Stitch in Stoke said "we don't want it at all.
"Morally and socially I just think it's something Stoke doesn't need."
Nayland College principal Rex Smith has sent a letter to Mr Sutton on behalf of himself and his staff, outlining their objection to the proposed new shop.
The letter was passed around the staffroom last Friday and signed by 49 people.
"We would like to register what is a social and moral objection to such a store being opened within the Stoke community," Mr Smith wrote.
"There is considerable evidence to suggest that substances sold under the ‘legal high' banner have a detrimental effect on individuals, families and communities and are often targeted at the most vulnerable members of our community.
"Such a shop is not providing any kind of service and is clearly there for the sole purpose of making money. It will add nothing to the social fabric of the Stoke community and in fact will, without doubt, have a detrimental impact," he wrote.
Kevin McCarthy, senior media adviser at the Ministry of Health, said interim licences to sell legal highs were awarded to individuals who could prove they were a "fit and proper person to hold a licence to retail psychoactive products".
Retailers also had to show that they were in the business of selling psychoactive products for at least 28 days prior to the Psychoactive Substances Act 2013 coming into force on July 17.
Mr Patel told the Nelson Mail in July that he had stopped selling legal highs, at the direction of New Zealand Lotteries, which did not want Lotto product sold alongside the drugs.
Later that month the Mail revealed the store was still selling synthetic cannabis. New Zealand Lotteries subsequently revoked Mr Patel's licence. His lawyer, Kathy Carr, has confirmed he is hoping to sell the Haven Rd store.
- © Fairfax NZ News