Council seeks clarification on legal highs exclusion zones

Could pop-up churches scuttle legal high stores?

It was a throw away remark from submitter Steve O'Connor, but it prompted questions from Dunedin City Council hearings committee members about what effect new ''places of worship'' would have on licensed and existing retailers of legal highs.

''I have sat with families of teenagers who have consumed these products and had psychotic episodes and ended up institutionalised,'' Mr O'Connor said during his submission to the committee on the proposed legal high retail location policy hearing yesterday.

''My only hope is that we don't have to have the bloody stuff at all, in all honesty.

''I'd like to think the council would say to the Government we don't want this stuff in our city at all.''

As Mr O'Connor was leaving the table, he offered: ''Maybe I'll have to start some churches around town''.

He was referring to the policy's proposal to exclude legal highs retailers from being within 100m of places of worship.

It prompted Cr Mike Lord to question what impact new places of worship would have.

''What happens if [adult store] Peaches and Cream are doing the business pretty well and then someone wants to plant a church or mosque in there? Is it a case of first in first served?'' he said.

Dunedin City Council alcohol, psychoactive substances and gambling adviser Kevin Mechen was unsure of what impact it would have and requested a clarification from the Psychoactive Substances Regulatory Authority.

Committee chairman Cr David Benson Pope said he believed it would mean the place of worship would impact a retailer's ability to renew their licence, ''at the point of licensing a decision is made'', he said.

''The new mosque next door would be the same as if a church was demolished; that circle [100m radius on the exclusion zone] would disappear and the reverse would be the same thing.''

He described the exclusion zones within the CBD as a ''living thing''.

Independent drug policy researcher Dr Geoff Noller applauded the work of the council in developing the policy.

He raised concerns that a policy which was too prohibitive could lead to a monopoly, although allowing two or three retailers would be appropriate.

''I don't think we need a huge amount.''

Another submitter only wished to express umbrage with the allowance of legal highs and [adult store] Cupid Shop owner Carl Lapham was not able to submit in person, because he was at a previous engagement and could not make it to the hearing before 10.30am.

Submissions finished about 9.30am and the committee unanimously agreed to pass the refined exclusion zone which would prohibit retailers from operating at the intersection of View St and Moray Pl and expanded the area on George St on which they could operate.

The matter will now go to the full council.

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