Board member pledges to end legal-high sales

Christine Armstrong-Smith has vowed to remove all legal highs from her store.
Christine Armstrong-Smith has vowed to remove all legal highs from her store.

Public pressure has resulted in Waitara Community Board member Christine Armstrong-Smith vowing to remove all legal highs from her store.

Mrs Armstrong-Smithwas under fire this week after it was revealed she had been selling synthetic cannabis in the Keyman Video & Lotto store she owns with her husband, Neil.

In a statement to the Taranaki Daily News yesterday, Mrs Armstrong-Smith said they had decided to stop selling once current stock had been sold, which should take no more than a week.

"Given the community's concerns, we believe it is appropriate that we end our sales of this product despite its current legality.

"This decision has been made after careful consideration of public comments in the media, and particularly after having spoken with the mayor and the Waitara Community Board chairman," she said.

The move comes just days after Stratford dairy owner Peter Chen took the products off his shelves.

In the statement, Mrs Armstrong-Smith expressed her frustration at being singled out.

"We have always taken a responsible approach with this product, such as never selling to those under 18 years old, so it is very frustrating we have been singled out when there are so many other outlets that have not been similarly targeted."

The Taranaki Daily News believes there are no other elected members on any of the district's four community boards who own retail stores selling similar products.

Meanwhile, outspoken Waitara resident Fiona Clark received an "anonymous and unpleasant" letter after hitting out at Mrs Armstrong-Smith this week.

A letter Ms Clark received at her work on Tuesday said she was a "useless meddling cow" and should "think about leaving town".

It was written on the back of a New Plymouth District Council agenda item for its meeting on June 5.

Waitara police have confirmed they are reviewing CCTV footage to see if the letter writer could be identified.

Mrs Armstrong-Smith has denied any involvement in the letter.

Also known for her stand against oil and gas in Tikorangi, Ms Clark made a deputation to the Waitara Community Board on May 13 in an attempt to stop the sale of legal highs by Mrs Armstrong-Smith.

On Monday, she said the board should be "shamed" for failing to take serious action on the matter.

Community board chairman Colin Johnston was upset by those comments and said the first he had heard about Mrs Armstrong-Smith selling the products was at the meeting.

"It was very hard to comprehend it all at the meeting, I was quite shocked. But I feel we dealt with it the best way possible."

The board requested a report from the New Plymouth District Council on what action could be taken, which they received and passed on to Ms Clark two days after the meeting.

Although she acknowledged being given the report, Ms Clark was disappointed she had not been contacted by councillors or the board to discuss the matter further. Mr Johnston said yesterday the board supported Ms Clark's views on legal substances being sold within the community.

"But it is not fair that she would say our community board should be shamed, as we work hard for our community within the role in which we were elected," he said.

The board did not condone the sale of synthetic cannabis, Mr Johnston said, and now that everything had come to light, it would be proactive in its stance against it.

"We value our young people out there and it is really disappointing that it is being sold in Waitara."

Mr Johnston defended his fellow board member, saying she had been very good during her time on the board and was pleased at how well all representatives had worked together.

Mr Johnston said it was now about pushing forward as a province to get rid of the products, and the board would join in with anything that aimed to do that.

Taranaki Daily News