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Police call on community to join fight against ‘legal highs’

Raglan police are urging the local community to get behind them in trying to stop or limit the sale of “legal highs”, or legal psychoactive substances, in the town.

Under the 2013 Psychoactive Substances Act, the Waikato District Council has drawn up a proposed policy to control the location of premises which can sell the party pills, energy pills and herbal “highs” which have psychoactive substances as their active ingredient.

The public has until Monday week – February 17 – to put in submissions on the policy, and Raglan police are urging concerned locals to have their say.

“We would definitely want to oppose it [the sale of “legal highs” locally] and are looking for the support of the community to make it not happen,” Constable Raewyn McLachlan told the Chronicle this week.

“Clearly we don’t want them [legal highs] here. They’re more work for the police and not a healthy pastime for our young people to be involved in.

“There are too many young people hanging around with nothing to do as it is.”

The council points out, however, that while it clearly prefers the substances shouldn’t be permitted, the act provides for them as legal products and it can’t stop premises selling them.

Under the act the council can, though, control where retailers can be located, and how close they are to each other and to “sensitive” sites.

Its draft policy now out for public submissions proposes “legal highs” can only be sold in central business districts, and then not within 50 metres of a sensitive site or 100 metres of another “legal highs” retailer.

In plumping for a CBDs-only approach the council cites the higher flows of foot and vehicle traffic which makes these areas safer, the presence of CCTV cameras and the easier enforcement with the higher police presence in main streets. It also points out that approach helps keep psychoactive substances away from residential neighbourhoods.

The policy also makes clear what council means by sensitive sites – areas predominantly frequented by families, under-18s or “vulnerable” members of the community, and any site the council wants to become a family-friendly zone.

But the policy gets into confusing territory when it shows on an accompanying map “locations where psychoactive retail outlets may be established” in the Raglan CBD.

Curiously, the sites it identifies are those currently occupied by Bow St Studios, the Raglan Service Station next door, The Shack, Jet Collective and Raglan Real Estate (Ray White), and on the other side of Bow Street the Harbour View Hotel and the Raglan SuperValue supermarket.

But as the new act prohibits the sale of “legal highs” from certain types of premises including grocery stores, supermarkets, service stations and premises where alcohol is sold or supplied, that would appear to mean that SuperValue, the hotel and service station would have to change the entire nature of their businesses if they wanted to sell “legal highs”.

The Chronicle put the apparent conundrum to council, and general manager customer support Sue Duignan responded that “the maps do not identify the current use of the premises or whether that retailer could obtain a licence … instead they identify locations which meet the criteria outlined in the proposed policy in relation to proximity to sensitive sites and to other retail outlets”.

The central presumption appears to be that retailers may come and go but that sensitive sites won’t.

The Chronicle also raised the fact that Raglan Education & Childcare Centre – identified by the council itself as a sensitive site – is directly alongside the rear section of the hotel, but Sue Duignan pointed out “the separation distance between a retailer selling these products and sensitive sites is measured from each premises’ entrance along the most direct route of travel” and that measurements weren’t necessarily taken in a straight line.

Former Raglan Community Board chairman Rodger Gallagher believes the council may have failed to check the hotel also has a rear entry.

However he suggests that in the case of the so-named Raglan Service Station, the council might argue it is now a garage workshop and not the service station it once was.

Two other sensitive sites are identified in the map: the Raglan library/council offices and the town hall. The Plunket rooms and the Community House appear to be glaring omissions.

Edith Symes

The council’s proposed psychoactive substances policy can be viewed online through the WDC website. Submissions must be with council by 4pm February 17, and hearings are planned for late February.

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