A shop selling 'legal highs' advertises on a busy part of
George St in central Dunedin. Photo by Dan Hutchinson
The Government has passed legislation that allows the
Dunedin City Council some control over the sale of psychoactive
substances like party pills and synthetic cannabis.
Almost six months has passed with no new rules from the
council and now Government MPs are asking why not. Star
reporter Dan Hutchinson asks what is holding things up.
The Dunedin City Council is being told to ''get off their
butts and get moving'' on policies to control the sale of
Dunedin-based National MP Michael Woodhouse has accused Mayor
Dave Cull of ''publicly hand-wringing'' over the issue, which
has drawn a strong response.
''This is a case of central government pointing the finger at
local government and saying 'you are not doing anything' when
frankly central government has made a balls-up of the
legislation. It doesn't enable us at all,'' Mr Cull said.
Mr Woodhouse said the council had been given the tools to
control the number, nature, location and opening times of
retailers selling psychoactive substances.
''It is no accident that two or three [retailers] are
deliberately located in areas where people are extremely
vulnerable to this stuff - and I am talking about our
mentally ill,'' he said.
Mr Cull said the process was flawed because although the
council could develop a policy, licenses were issued to
retailers by a government organisation in Wellington not
bound by the policy.
''It not only doesn't make sense, it is inconsistent with
controls that have been put in place and seem to work for
gambling and alcohol.''
Council liquor licensing and projects officer Kevin Mechen
has drafted a Locally Approved Product Policy (Lapp) to
regulate psychoactive substances, which he said the council
would consider in about two weeks.
He said the council could not prohibit the sale, so it had to
work out ''where it [psychoactive substances] could be sold
with the least amount of damage''.
Hamilton City Council recently restricted sales of legal
highs in a policy that was now the subject of a judicial
review. Mr Mechen believed many councils were waiting to see
the outcome of that review.
However, Mr Woodhouse said the review simply looked at
whether the right process was followed and the Dunedin City
Council did not have to wait.
''There is no good reason for them to quiver behind the
possibility of legal action as they appear to be doing and I
maintain my call to them to do what the community has asked
them to do and that is to regulate the location of these
Mr Cull said the council would be working ''prudently and
economically'' so it did not waste money ''trying to plug
holes in inadequate central government legislation''.