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Despite a temporary ban on legal highs, there was ''no doubt'' the psychoactive substances would be back on the streets of Queenstown and Wanaka ''within a year'', a Queenstown Lakes district councillor says.
Cr Cath Gilmour said the council was using the Government's temporary ban as ''breathing space'' to find out what the community wanted it to do to control the availability of legal highs once new products had been approved for sale.
''We're hearing from the agencies who take care of those suffering from addiction and withdrawal that if we don't have controls in place then retailers forced out of other centres will be looking to stake a claim on what [is] perceived to be a very lucrative market here.''
Formerly legal psychoactive substances were known to have caused considerable damage in the Queenstown Lakes District community, including episodes of violence, psychosis, seizures, anxiety, hospitalisation and dishonesty offences.
Until the Government introduced its ban last month, Queenstown had a retail shop for legal highs, a warehouse for an internet-based company selling psychoactive substances, plus a manufacturing base for the substances.
Under the latest law, none should be producing, distributing or selling the products.
Crs Gilmour, Merv Aoake, Craig Ferguson and Ella Lawton had organised a public meeting in Queenstown and a combined forum in Wanaka to hear about the impact of legal highs in the community.
It was a chance for people to share experiences.
Speakers would include police and clinicians while a former addict would describe the impact that legal highs had on her life, Cr Gilmour said.
People would also be informed about what ability the council had to control the substances.
At present the law does not allow councils to place an ''outright ban'' on the sale of legal highs approved for sale by the Government.
Cr Gilmour said there were lesser restrictions councils could impose, through a bylaw or Local Approved Product Policy (LAPP), which would prevent substances being sold, distributed or used in certain places.
However, it would take ''months'' to go through the legal processes required for either option, she said.
''If we can get a clear steer from the community that people want the council to put firm controls in place, then it's possible we could have a draft LAPP on the council agenda as early as next month,'' she said.
• Queenstown Events Centre, Thursday, mezzanine meeting room, 7pm-9pm.
• A combined forum with the Wanaka Alcohol Group, Armstrong Room, Lake Wanaka Centre, June 18, 7pm-9pm.