Get rid of legal highs: priest

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An Oamaru religious leader believes the Waitaki District Council should have the power to ban “insidious” psychoactive substances, which he says have no place in Oamaru.

Father Wayne Healey was one of only 10 people who submitted on council’s draft Local Approved Products Policy (LAPP) before the public consultation closed last week.

He will deliver his submission verbally at council’s meeting on April 1. He has the support of Waitaki Boys’ High School and St Kevin’s College, who this week will make placards to voice their opposition to legal highs. Waitaki Girls’ High School decided it did not want to be involved.

Fr Healey has long been opposed to psychoactive substances, also known as “legal highs”, being sold in Oamaru.

“For me, I guess it started back quite some time ago, in 2013.

“It really started when the former mayor Alex Familton and I went around the shops asking why people are selling these things.”

That led to protest marches being held in Oamaru, in which both Fr Healey and Mr Familton took part.

He said he would like to see the council ban legal highs, however while it could restrict where they were sold, only the Government had the power to place a blanket ban on the products.

His submission would address the harm legal highs caused when they were sold in Oamaru and his views on the areas where they could be sold, he said.

The LAPP proposes restricting sales from within 50m of a “sensitive site” or 100m of a residential area.

Sensitive sites listed in the LAPP include libraries, museums and galleries, places of worship, school, child-care facilities, welfare agencies, pharmacies, and medical centres, public parks, reserves and playgrounds, the Oamaru District Court, the Alps 2 Ocean Cycleway, stand-alone public toilets, key bus stops and war memorials.

Fr Healey said the defined area in the LAPP was “rubbish” and wanted the community to band together to ensure legal highs don’t return to Oamaru.

“We’ve got a wonderful town and community.

“I want our community to say we will be number one to get rid of legal highs.”

“We’ve got to try and do something, otherwise we just sit on our hands,” Fr Healey said.

“We’ve got to put a fence at the top of the cliff and not an ambulance at the bottom, that’s what the Government has done. I don’t want the town to be ruined by undesirables and undesirables’ behaviour.”

Several cases of legal high addiction were reported in Oamaru, which Fr Healey said has been the case across the country.

“What I’m submitting is not from emotion, it’s from fact.

“Psychiatric units and hospitals are full of people trying to detox. They’re depressed, hallucinating. aggressive and violent.

“It causes a lot of crime. Do the people that sell them [legal highs] go and support them? No. They are there for the money and the money only.”

Another long-time campaigner against legal highs, Derek Beveridge, opted not to submit on the LAPP as he said his views were already well-known.

“I’m dead against the legal highs.

“I think he council needs to pressure the government to ban them. At the end of the day the council is told what they can and can’t do and they have to go along with the legislation the way it is.”

The LAPP is designed to address public concerns about where legal highs are sold, while meeting the statutory requirements of the Psychoactive Substances Act 2013.

Council will deliberate the policy on April 15.

By Daniel Birchfield