Formerly New Zealand's High Commissioner to the Cook Islands and MP for the Northland Electorate of New Zealand.

JOHN CARTER - MAYOR OF THE FAR NORTH DISTRICT OF NEW ZEALAND


Moving forward together

Thursday 3 July 2014

Reducing harm to communities

People in the Far North have an opportunity this month to have their say on proposals to address three issues that have generated strong community interest over the years. The Council is inviting public submissions on new policies to regulate the sale of alcohol and 'legal highs' and also proposing to reduce the number of pokie machines in the district over time.

We decided last year to use new powers to develop a Local Alcohol Policy to allow the District Licensing Committee to limit the location and number of bars and liquor outlets, as well as restrict or extend opening hours. The draft policy we are proposing to adopt in September includes relatively minor changes to the current licensing rules. However, it is still important that we find out if these meet the approval of the wider community.

Legislative changes have also forced the introduction of a new local policy to address the sale of Government-approved psychoactive substances commonly referred to as "legal highs." While the government has temporarily stopped retail sales until the manufacturers can satisfy authorities they are safe for human consumption, it is inevitable that new "approved" drugs will eventually be offered for sale. The law doesn't allow councils to ban the sale of legal highs, but it does allow them to control the location of outlets where they are sold. Our proposed policy attempts to constrain the ability of legal high dealers to find a complying site for their outlet by restricting them to commercial zones and including a number of location requirements designed to protect the community, especially children. We know there is strong community interest in this issue, particularly in Kaitaia where there have been large protest marches, so please make the time to have your say.

We have also reached a five-year review period for our policy on gaming machines and TABs. Our current policy doesn't allow licenses to be issued for new pokie machines, but it does allow machines to be used at other gaming venues in the district if a venue closes. Under our proposed 'sinking lid' policy, replacement licenses will not be issued for machines that have been relocated to new venues in the district.

These are all big issues that have generated a lot of concern in our communities over the years, so we hope lots of people make submissions before the closing date on 1 August. In all three cases, we are going through the Special Consultative Process as set down in the Local Government Act to ensure that public perspectives are addressed before the new policies are set in concrete. We also want to know if there are other policies communities would like us to review. We want to reflect a consensus view in our decision-making where possible, so rely on communities to guide our decision-making. Tell us what you think.

 

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