The Dunedin City Council should stop being
''scaredy-cats'' and introduce a new local policy to control
legal highs, even if it ends up in court, Dunedin-based
National MP Michael Woodhouse says.
Mr Woodhouse was returning fire yesterday after comments by
Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull, who on Tuesday criticised the
Government's ''ham-fisted'' handling of psychoactive
The Psychoactive Substances Act, introduced last year,
allowed councils to develop policies to control legal high
retailers, but did not specifically require the authority
issuing retailers' licences to consider the policies, Mr Cull
He worried the ''ham-fisted'' approach would leave councils
exposed to legal action, costing ratepayers money, as was
already happening in Hamilton, where the city council faced a
However, Mr Woodhouse hit back yesterday, saying the Dunedin
City Council's concerns were ''a complete red herring'' and
they should not be ''scaredy-cats''.
The council was among local authorities to have sought the
power to introduce local policies to control psychoactive
substances, but had failed to act once granted them, he said.
While the Act did not specifically require the authority
issuing licences to abide by council policies, it was
''inferred'' and ''probably so obvious as to not be
required'', he said.
Instead, the Dunedin City Council appeared to be ''spooked''
by the judicial review faced by the Hamilton City Council
(HCC), he said.
There, the council had adopted a new policy and then sought
the suspension of licences for existing legal high retailers
who did not comply with it, Mr Woodhouse said.
The Psychoactive Substances Appeals Committee this week
backed the council's stance, at least for now, by finding its
local policy was ''supreme'', he said.
However, other appeals were still pending, including the
judicial review of the HCC's overall policy, which would be
heard in May or June, the Waikato Times reported yesterday.
Mr Cull, contacted last night, agreed councils were holding
back, waiting for the outcome in Hamilton.
However, he remained critical of ''inadequate'' legislation
that cost ratepayers money to clarify in court, and expected
the HCC's legal bill would be at least $100,000.
''It's not that the legislation won't enable some good things
to come out, but it could have been a hell of a lot better,
and it's the ratepayers again that are expected to fund
sorting it out.
''It's easy for parliamentarians to be irresponsible with
ratepayer money because they're not responsible to the
ratepayers. We are.''
Mr Woodhouse conceded there was no guarantee the Dunedin City
Council would not also face a court challenge, but that was
no reason not to ''get moving'' on its policy.
''Any decision is open to challenge, so I can't say there's
no risk ... What I'm saying is don't be scaredy-cats,'' he
''These people [retailers] are going to throw a lot of money
to make sure they can do what they like.
'' I'm saying the council should be big enough and ugly
enough to accept that ... They need to do what they need to
do to get the policy in place, without fearing these guys
taking them to court.''