Anti-legal-high protesters slam councillors
The no-show of Invercargill's civic leaders has been labelled a "kick in the teeth" by those protesting against legal highs.
About 100 protesters gathered in Wachner Place in Invercargill on Saturday as part of a nationwide rally to have the synthetic cannabis products banned.
Legal-high opponents said the absence of Mayor Tim Shadbolt and Deputy Mayor Darren Ludlow left them unimpressed.
Invercargill mother and anti-legal-high campaigner Debbie Plank said she saw one or two councillors in the crowd but it would have been great if the mayor had been there to show his support.
He would have been able to hear first-hand accounts of the damage psychoactive substances were doing in the Invercargill and Southland community.
"It seems like the city council wants the public to do all the work. It is a bit of a kick in the teeth really," Plank said.
She believed the council was not doing enough to stop the sale of legal highs in the community.
Ludlow, who has stated the council was "dead-set against" legal highs being sold, said on Friday he would be out of town for the protest.
Shadbolt could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Southland District Mayor Gary Tong did take part in the protest and said he felt it was important to show that his council was behind the communities who wanted synthetic cannabis products banned.
"The protest may have been in Invercargill but I saw some people from Winton. I heard the heart-wrenching stories of those in the crowd."
Tong marched with the group and managed to surprise one protester who was brandishing a sign asking why the mayors were not there. "They apologised when I tapped them on the shoulder," he said.
While he understood the frustration of the protesters, Tong did not agree councils were not doing enough. "Our councils are doing what we can do. The protesters need to focus their efforts towards central government."
Labour Party Invercargill candidate Lesley Soper spoke at the protest. People had a right to be angry with the Government after it rushed through a piece of legislation allowing legal highs to be sold in the communities, she said.
National Party Invercargill MP Eric Roy said he could not attend the rally but was in the protesters' corner.
"If we could wave a magic wand and rid our communities of this terrible stuff and those peddling this absolute junk, we would," he said.
Finding a way to legislate a complete ban of psychoactive substances was confounding the world, Roy said.
Harm minimisation was the best form of legislation available at this time, he said.
Protests were held in 23 centres from Whangarei to Invercargill and they were organised by Tokoroa mother Julie King via a Facebook event page: "Aotearoa bans the sale and distribution of legal highs in our country".
The Southland Times