Legal highs 'a blight', but where should they go?

AARON LEAMAN
Last updated 05:00 13/02/2014

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Hamilton residents support a push to keep the sale of synthetic highs out of city neighbourhoods, but appear divided on where outlets should be allowed.

The Hamilton City Council has called for public submissions on its draft psychoactive substances policy, with hearings set for next week.

Submissions close on Monday, but a snapshot of views received so far shows widespread public angst.

Hamilton East resident Shardell Quinn said there had been a "marked increase" in undesirable behaviour in the neighbourhood since the opening of an outlet in Grey St.

"I have experienced verbal abuse when I refused someone begging for money outside the puff shop," Ms Quinn wrote.

Sitting outside Hamilton East cafes was once a regular treat, Ms Quinn said, but now she was continually approached by people begging money.

Submitter Scott Raynel worked in the central city and had seen a spike in anti-social behaviour in the past six to nine months. The dramatic shift in the atmosphere and safety of the central city could be attributed to the availability and use of psychoactive substances, he said.

"Admittedly, there are many other factors involved in the wider problem of homelessness, joblessness and general anti-social behaviour. However, the availability of psychoactive substances is clearly adding to a problem that is already out of control for our city."

Under the new Psychoactive Substances Act, councils can put policies in place to approve locations where synthetic highs can be sold, but cannot ban their sale outright.

The council's draft policy proposes two locations: the central city and Te Rapa. But residents and business owners appear split, with both locations having their detractors.

Submitter Nick Hill preferred Te Rapa as the sole location because it had the least impact on commercial and business activity, had less pedestrian activity and the least impact on visitors and tourists.

Submitter Julie Taylor said if the council allowed synthetic highs to be sold in the central business district, it would "kill off" the hard work people had done to attract people back to the city for shopping, retail and work spaces.

"You just need to look at what's happening in Hamilton East with these shops," she said.

In contrast, Jason Howarth believed allowing their sale in Te Rapa would spread enforcement and monitoring resources.

Gaye Fitchett said she did not like the thought of these products being sold anywhere, "but at least if they are sold in the CBD, the police and on-site cameras will be on hand to help if help is needed".

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- Waikato Times

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