'Sort it out yourselves'

SUSAN STRONGMAN
Last updated 05:00 24/04/2014
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CHARLOTTE CURD
Paula Bennett

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Local councils and not the Government need to lead the fight against synthetic cannabis, says Minister of Local Government Paula Bennett.

Bennett said the law implemented last year to regulate the sale of legal highs, the Psychoactive Substances Act, was considered one of the best in the world and gave local government bodies like the New Plymouth District Council the means to get synthetic cannabis out of the community.

But she said a government-led blanket ban of the substances was not an option and it was down to the council to act.

"We've now got the mayor saying ‘well thanks for that but it's all a bit hard for us. We want central government to be doing it all'," Bennett said.

Her comments came after last week's challenge from New Plymouth mayor Andrew Judd for MP Jonathan Young to explain the Government's position and legislation relating to synthetic cannabis.

Judd said the Government needed to completely ban the substances, calling the perceived lack of action "negligent."

"Ban it or give the council the tools to ban it."

He said the Psychoactive Substances Act only allowed the council to determine areas in which they could not be sold.

"We can't make any council policy to ban them," he said, adding that the government was passing the buck to local councils.

"Central government should put more resources into actually banning it."

The act does not ban synthetic cannabis outright and Bennett said it was not as simple as just making the products illegal.

"If we could ban it tomorrow we would."

But she said if a blanket ban was put on the substances it would mean getting rid of legal drugs that helped with diseases such as arthritis.

She sad the legislation had drastically reduced the number of outlets that could sell synthetic cannabis.

"A year to 18 months ago it was able to be sold in liquor outlets and dairies, there were no controls on it whatsoever," she said.

Bennett said things could get better and there was a real desire from the government to find a way to deal with the issue.

CONSULTATION 'A LOCAL MATTER'

 

The issue of iwi representation on New Plymouth District Council committees came to light last week after councillors voted against a proposal that would give iwi voting rights and representation on the committees.

Bennett said she had not been approached for help with the issue and expected local councils themselves to decide how they consulted and who they had around the decision-making table.

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"There's not going to be a directive from central government."

But Te Atiawa representative Peter Moeahu, who was in Wellington yesterday, said he thought the decision was in breach of the Local Government Act, which made reference to the Treaty of Waitangi.

He said he had appealed to the Human Rights Commission about the issue.

"The central government claims to be Treaty partners with iwi, so they should be involved."

But Bennett said she believed in "local being local", and the decision needed to be made without central government involvement.

"I don't think Wellington has the answers for everywhere.

"I personally couldn't imagine making fundamental big decisions without a level of [iwi] consultation," she said.

Bennett thought the way consultation between iwi and local councils happened was up to individual towns and cities to decide.

The proposal voted down on April 15 by the NPDC would have seen six iwi representatives appointed to three committees - the monitoring, policy and regulatory committees.

- Taranaki Daily News

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