Editorial: Sending messages

Last updated 09:14 11/10/2012

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OPINION: The decision to prosecute Gloria Davis, the widow of Easy Rider skipper Rewai Karetai who died along with seven others when the fishing boat sank in Foveaux Strait in March, must have been a tough call to make, but it is the correct one.

There is widespread, deeply felt sympathy for Davis, who has lost her husband and other members of her extended family in the tragedy. It seems a cruel added burden to now charge her, as the sole surviving director of the company that operated the boat, with offences under the Health and Safety in Employment Act and the Maritime Transport Act.

However, Maritime New Zealand, which has laid all five charges, needs to demonstrate to the families who travel each year to the muttonbird islands that they must act more responsibly.

The sinking of the Easy Rider came only six years after the Kotuku was lost when returning from the Titi Islands after being hit by a rogue wave. Six people died in that tragedy.

Foveaux Strait is a dangerous stretch of water for all vessels and too many lives have been lost on the trips to and from the Titi Islands on fishing boats that are often loaded down with supplies for the muttonbirding season.

Another government department also needs to take decisive action to send a strong warning message, to the retailers who are continuing to sell the supposed herbal high K2 to minors.

That three Invercargill stores were caught out selling the synthetic cannabinoid to children in a combined sting operated by the police and Public Health South is bad enough. That two of them had already been caught selling the product to minors without asking for proof of age, in an earlier sting, is alarming.

But worst of all is that a fortnight before this latest sting operation all of the retailers were visited by staff from Public Health South and reminded of their responsibilities to ensure they were not selling K2 and other herbal high drugs to minors.

These drugs can be seriously dangerous. Police say they set up the sting operation because of growing complaints from the public and warn that the ongoing use of the drug, especially by minors, is of real concern.

They point to some people becoming more aggressive and erratic after smoking the drug and say those using it are more likely to become either the victims of crime, or the offenders. As we reported yesterday, the United States Department of Justice Drug Intelligence Centre says studies have shown that among the adverse effects of taking synthetic cannabinoid are increased anxiety, agitation, numbness and tingling and in the most severe cases tremors and seizures.

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We need to get these drugs off our streets.

Public Health South says it intends to notify the Ministry of Health of the outcome of this latest sting and it will then be up to the ministry to decide what action, if any, should be taken against the city retailers.

That should not be a tough call to make - all three retailers should be prosecuted and, if convicted, penalised as severely as the law allows. With two of the three already caught out in a previous sting, and all three given warnings two weeks before the latest operation, it appears clear some retailers are not taking their responsibilities seriously.

The ministry needs to send a stronger message.

- The Southland Times

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