'Ludicrous': Vow to fight drug shops in Hamilton's CBD
The Hamilton Central Business Association is calling for a ban on psychoactive substances, as it begins the fight to keep synthetic drug shops out of the CBD.
Association general manager Sandy Turner called legislation introduced last year to control the sale of the drugs "ridiculous".
"It's put every council in the country and every community in the country in an absolute flux. Somebody's got to stand up and say this is ridiculous legislation."
She said that the law restricted who could sell the drugs, and where they were sold, but would not address the problems it created in the community.
"Absolutely nobody supports - nobody. I've not met one organisation that supports psychoactive substances."
She said the organisation had been working with police for the last 18 months to profile and identify all the people in the central city who needed help, and which services would best help them, as well as identifying communication gaps between services to ensure people did not fall through the cracks.
This included addiction services and getting people back on the benefit, or getting people accommodation.
"They've got multiple social issues, but the challenge is that a lot of drug addicts have naturally gone to the psychoactive substances because they are legal. Whilst they've got other addictions, this one's now legal and so it's been exploited more."
Ms Turner said it was "ludicrous" to allow the sale of synthetic cannabis in the CBD.
"It's absolutely ludicrous that the council propose that the CBD should be the preferred location.
"It has so many negative impacts on all the hard work that organisations like ourselves are doing in trying to enhance and reinvigorate the CBD for investors. It's just appalling."
She said antisocial behaviour resulting from drug takers would have an impact on the city's reputation, business bottom lines, and those willing to start up a business or branch in the central city.
"We're trying to build up our CBD, we're trying to attract great businesses, businesses that employ large amounts of staff. Why on earth would we employ a policy that is absolutely going to take us 10 steps back?"
Association staff will be going door to door asking local business owners to sign a submission that sales of the substances be restricted to Te Rapa.
Ms Turner said the association would not stop campaigning until the CBD was clear of the stores. "If it's on my watch, we won't stop until it is [banned].
"We're not prepared to just sit back and let this happen."
She said Te Rapa was a better location, as there were no schoolchildren or tourists passing through in buses, and it would have less of an impact on businesses.
"You've got tradesmen out there. I don't think they're going to be as offended as a mum with her baby in a
pushchair and two toddlers if someone is urinating in the garden."
Hamilton Mayor Julie Hardaker was on leave, but said in December the council had little choice. "The Government hasn't banned these synthetic drugs so the council is left with only one option, controlling the location of the places that sell these harmful substances."
The CBD was identified as the safest place for legal highs because of the prominent police presence, City Safe patrols, CCTV monitoring and high volume of vehicle and pedestrian traffic.
Hamilton East National MP David Bennett said laws banning the substances outright had not worked in other countries.
"Whatever you ban today could be on the shelf tomorrow in a different wrapper. You can just change the wrapper on them. Today it could be a Moro bar and tomorrow it could be a Picnic bar.
"The other problem," he said, "is that they are compound drugs, so they can be 10 or 15 ingredients or whatever, and those ingredients are used in our everyday normal lives, like cough lollies or aspirin or whatever, so if you go after the ingredients you are effectively going to be banning things that you and I use in our everyday lives."
He said the law was the best solution the Government had at present to address the problem.
"I'm not saying that's perfect, all of us would want to see these things gone . . . but we're doing that the best way that is practical at the moment."
Labour list MP for Hamilton Sue Moroney said every city in New Zealand would be struggling with the issue.
"I think every city's going to be struggling with the same arguments. Every city is going to have to be making decisions about what we do with these shops.
"It's difficult wherever they go, but they should be located wherever there is the best opportunity for surveillance."
The consultation process will close on February 17.