Legal high appeal will still cost council

ELTON SMALLMAN
Last updated 05:00 29/04/2014

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The Government will ban legal highs within two weeks but Hamilton ratepayers will still have to bear the costs of a appeal against the city's psychoactive substance policy.

Hamilton City Council adopted the policy in February but Grant Hall, the general manager legal high industry group Star Trust said it was prohibition and sought a judicial review.

Associate Health minister Peter Dunne's U-turn will see the remaining 41 substance removed from sale when his bill passes under urgency when parliament resumes.

Hamilton Mayor Julie Hardaker said nothing had changed for them and the case was still before the courts.

"It's a court process challenging our policy so it will just carry on its journey through the court," she said.

Communities called for a ban last year, well before council drafted and adopted its policy and the appeal may have been unnecessary had Dunne acted upon public sentiment sooner.

"It would have been very nice," said Hardaker.

"We are now involved in court proceedings and using ratepayers money to fund court proceedings that we believe complies with the legislation that the government gave us."

Ratepayers were likely to be furious their money was to be used for an unnecessary case and while Hardaker was unsure of the cost, she said it would be significant.

"I suspect, knowing court proceedings and knowing what this its about, that it won't be tens of thousands of dollars, it'll be more than that."

Council got advice from the government and the process was robust and she was comfortable with the court proceedings.

"I'm really pleased now the government has acted on the concerns of the community which has been voiced very strongly."

Despite the government's announcement which sees the burden of proof shift back to the industry to determine their risk level, Waikato District Council will continue with its proposed psychoactive substances policy hearings as planned.

General Manager customer support Sue Duignan said the ban did not stop the psychoactive substances outright and it was important to continue the policy development.

They received 484 submissions and 81 will be heard in person on May 5, 6, and 7. 

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- Waikato Times

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