Boards seek to re­strict le­gal highs

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By EMMA WHIT­TAKER

Tighter re­stric­tions on the sale of le­gal highs around schools, ad­dic­tion treat­ment cen­tres and men­tal health fa­cil­i­ties are among the rec­om­men­da­tions lo­cal boards are mak­ing to Auck­land Coun­cil on the psy­choac­tive sub­stances draft lo­cal ap­proved prod­ucts pol­icy.

Psy­choac­tive sub­stances – or le­gal highs – have been off the shelves since May when the Psy­choac­tive Sub­stances Amend­ment Act was passed.

The new law banned the sale of le­gal highs un­til new reg­u­la­tions come into place.

Re­tail­ers will have to prove their prod­uct is safe be­fore they can get a li­cence to sell it.

Coun­cils can set their own pol­icy on where the prod­ucts can be sold.

Auck­land Coun­cil pro­poses that le­gal highs not be sold in ar­eas of high de­pri­va­tion, in neigh­bour­hood cen­tres as de­fined by the uni­tary plan, within 300 me­tres of a high school, within 100m of a pri­mary school, within 300m of a men­tal health or ad­dic­tion treat­ment cen­tre, or within 500m of another le­gal high re­tailer.

The Al­bert Eden Lo­cal Board is rec­om­mend­ing that the buf­fer zone around schools, men­tal health fa­cil­i­ties and ad­dic­tion cen­tres be ex­tended to one kilo­me­tre.

‘‘The whole in­tent of the pol­icy is to re­duce the harm to vul­ner­a­ble com­mu­ni­ties. It’s about en­sur­ing the pol­icy is in place that min­imises the harm as much as pos­si­ble,’’ board mem­ber Margi Wat­son says.

‘‘Three hun­dred me­tres isn’t very far to walk.

‘‘We know high school stu­dents are very mo­bile.

‘‘We have a lot of ad­dic­tion cen­tres that are lo­cated within the com­mu­nity but we also have some rather big ones like the Ma­son Clinic and dis­trict health board ad­dic­tion ser­vices.

‘‘They’re right on the edge of town cen­tres where in the­ory th­ese shops would be able to set up.

‘‘That is prob­a­bly not a great out­come for some of our vul­ner­a­ble com­mu­ni­ties.

‘‘If we’re not look­ing after our most vul­ner­a­ble then we’re do­ing a pretty poor job’’ Wat­son says.

A blan­ket ban is out of the ques­tion, Wat­son and fel­low board mem­ber Rachel Lang­ton say.

‘‘It will never hap­pen be­cause it would fall over in the courts – that is not to say there aren’t peo­ple in the com­mu­nity or on the board that would like one – so we need to have a pol­icy in place or we will go to the de­fault pol­icy that is set by cen­tral gov­ern­ment,’’ Wat­son says.

Lang­ton thinks many peo­ple are un­der the im­pres­sion that the law change in May put a fi­nal ban on le­gal highs.

‘‘I’m pretty sure that when le­gal highs start be­ing sold again many in the com­mu­nity will be sur­prised,’’ Lang­ton says.

‘‘I think is should be an elec­tion is­sue,’’ she says.

Pub­lic sub­mis­sions on the pol­icy open later in the year.

Rachel Lang­ton

Margi Wat­son

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