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Legal highs out

The communities of Winton and Te Anau will not be granted any licences for the sale of legal highs, after a combined council document designated to leave them out of approved areas entirely.

The Local Approved Products Policy was finalised last month and effective from December 22, designating the Invercargill CBD as the only place in Southland that can have retail outlets selling psychoactive substances. It is a combined policy between the Invercargill City Council, and Gore and Southland district councils written in compliance with the Psychoactive Substances Act, passed in 2013 and allowing territorial authorities to regulate where legal highs can be sold.

The streets of central Invercargill were identified because they have “high visibility and community presence,” the policy states. “These, along with police presence and CCTV are important characteristics of the environments within which the sale of psychoactive substances can be appropriate.”

Southland District Mayor Gary Tong said the policy was a victory for the small communities of Southland.

“It was a good result, and obviously the result of the three mayors as well as fantastic positive feedback from the people in our communities,” he said. “They just didn’t want the bloody stuff.”

Though the Invercargill City Council will now shoulder the weight of compliance monitoring for the region, there are currently no products approved and on the market.

According to the Psychoactive Substances Regulatory Authority, it is considered that the first product approval would not be granted for at least two years.

“Tim [Shadbolt’s] team have had to do what they’ve had to do, and obviously it’s pretty restrictive but it’s not denying anybody the right to start up. But it will be pretty well monitored,” Mr Tong said.

Winton was at the forefront of the campaign against the sale of legal highs last year, and the town’s residents are very pleased with the policy outcome.

Winton local Rachelle Cummings, who had been instrumental in circulating a 2000-signature petition in the town last year to ban the substances outright, said the new policy is “a big win for the people”.

“The councils have gotten together and done a great job,” Mrs Cummings said.

Winton Community Board chairman John ‘Chub’ McHugh said he was very pleased to see common sense had prevailed.

“If we have to have it [legal highs], Invercargill is the best place to have it. It shouldn’t extend further into Southland. I’d like to congratulate everyone who was in favour of it not coming to Winton,” he said.

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